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Not the First Canceled Train Ride

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historically speaking

The week before Biden’s Inauguration, it was announced that his planned arrival to D.C. would no longer happen by train. This was significant for Biden because rail travel has been an important part of his identity so much that he has earned the nickname “Amtrak Joe.” Biden began taking the train back when he was just a Senator in the 1970s, partly to connect with common folks, but also because he lost his wife and daughter to a car accident and he wanted a safer mode of transportation to allow him to raise his two sons. Biden hoped to continue this common man theme for his inauguration but with security heightened he was forced to change his plans.

Having to modify his arrival by train may sounds strange in today’s world, but it was not the first time this happened for security reasons.

There is still yet an election as polarizing as the 1860 election. The new upstart Republican Party had been around for six years. The Republicans were different from other parties. First, the Republican Party was a sectional party. Parties in the past – Federalists, Jeffersonian Republicans, Whigs, Democrats – had all been national parties. They fought over issues like banks and tariffs but did so as parties instead of sections. Republicans only had members from the north, so if they won the election, they would only represent northerners. With that it is understandable why the South had issues with the party.

The reason Republicans were a northern party only is their second difference – they pledged to stop the spread of slavery. The Republicans were a diverse party, even when it came to slavery. At one end were those who did not have an issue with slavery itself but did not think whites in the west should have to compete with the peculiar institution. On the other end were strong abolitionists who wanted to see slavery eradicated. The Party’s official stance was stopping the expansion of slavery, not outlawing it, but to the south anything restricting slavery was the same as abolition. Between Republicans solely representing northern interests and wanting to restrict the southern way of life, the south declared that if the Republicans won, the south would be forced to leave the Union to start their own nation where their concerns would be protected.

The day after Lincoln’s victory, South Carolina followed through with its threat and voted to leave the Union. Six more states quickly followed. Getting ready for Lincoln’s inaugural, the nation was teetering on the brink of war with all sides waiting to see what Lincoln would say in his speech, especially about Fort Sumpter. Sumpter was the only Fort in the South still controlled by the Union and it happened to be in the Charleston, S.C., harbor, the birthplace of secession.

In such a climate, Lincoln’s chief of security, Allen Pinkerton, of the detective agency fame, worried about Lincoln’s safety. Just like Biden’s inaugural, D.C. was on heightened security fearing a secessionist plot. Since his election, Lincoln had received numerous death threats. Pinkerton’s biggest fear was Lincoln’s route to D.C. and what worried him most was Baltimore. People forget today, but Maryland was a slave state and Baltimore at the time was a strong southern city. In Baltimore, Lincoln needed to take a short carriage ride between two stations, and Pinkerton believed he had uncovered a plot to kill Lincoln as he made that connection.

Lincoln, however, was not as confident about an assassination plot and refused to veer from his planned schedule. He took his time from Illinois to the Capitol, stopping at every city along the way to speak and attend celebrations. However, once in Pennsylvania, Lincoln received word from General Winfield Scott verifying a potential plot which forced Lincoln to act.

Against his wishes, Lincoln excused himself after dinner and, instead of staying the night, left by train to the Capital. When he left his residence, he wore a new hat instead of his traditional stove pipe hat and wore a shawl to disguise himself. Leaving after dinner instead of the next day meant he arrived in Baltimore in the middle of the night without warning or fanfare. His car was unhooked from the train and pulled by horse to Camden Station and hooked to a new engine which brought him safely to Washington. The inaugural went off without a hitch and Lincoln was safe. It was not until four years later that an assassin’s bullet finally found its mark, leaving Lincoln to the ages.

As Lincoln feared, his entrance into the Capital drew some criticism. Instead of a grand triumphal entrance, he had more of what some thought was a subdued back-door whimper. His arrival was called cowardice and some even reported he wore women’s clothes to escape detection, a crime charged against Jefferson Davis four years later as he tried to escape capture.

In the end both Lincoln’s and Biden’s inaugurations went smoothly. Both had a large military presence to keep the peace, but neither was ultimately needed. Lincoln did not enter the way he had hoped but went on to be arguably the greatest president in history. Biden’s legacy still needs to be written.


Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog.

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Opinion

Thoughts regarding the decision to change the name of LFCC

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The Letter to the Editor from Tenia Smith last week regarding the decision to change the name of Lord Fairfax Community College was an accurate assessment of the way things seems to be in this country these days.

I would add another reason that this decision is a frivolous attempt to amend history to make a segment of our community feel better. What we actually have here shows a complete out-of-historical context ignorance: that’s looking at historical figures and events through the context of the 21st Century, not through the context of the life and times in which these personalities lived and the events took place. Such individuals who view history through our present day vision will never understand the people and events of our past.

Hence, the burning need to revise our history to make it much more palatable.

Some people, even those in the business of education, will never understand the personalities and events of the past, and, in their ignorance, the discussions and decisions illustrate quite well that they aren’t really interested.

In fairness to Lord Fairfax, whose holdings in the 18th Century comprised what is now most of 22 states, much of what he accomplished in his life shaped early America and Virginia that we know and enjoy today. Regarding the decision to rename the school, their focus is on the way the world lived in the 1600s, the 1700s, and a good part of the 1800s. In no way am I condoning nor supporting the institution of slavery; right or wrong, it was an accepted practice in many countries, and still remains a practice in a number of countries in the 21st Century.

If these “educators” and politicians behind the name change refuse to permit the name of Thomas Lord Fairfax to remain intact on the college, then I would strongly recommend that they also not allow the Stars & Stripes to fly over LFCC. After all, and this also cannot be refuted, it was the symbol of a slave nation from 1787 to December 1865.

Arthur Candenquist
Amissville, Virginia

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Response to Tom Howarth’s Letters to the Editor

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I will say just one thing to Tom Howarth, who has submitted many Letters to the Editor of the Royal Examiner: “Stop crying wolf!”

When you write so many letters, and so frequently, people (myself, included) just tune you out!

Your letters are too predictably partisan.

Lalit Piplani
Front Royal, Virginia

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Our trust in the voting process will be forever challenged unless we the people take control of our voting rights

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In response to Tom Howarth’s letter to the editor on February 17th:

Mr. Howarth, I watched the trial, which by the way was unconstitutional and so full of hate against a man that no longer was in office.

When it came down to calling witnesses or not, the Democrats called a halt to it by acquitting former President Donald J. Trump! Why, Mr. Howarth? Was it because of who the Republicans could call as witnesses?

Mr. Trump’s lawyers did a great job of bringing out the truth. But Democrats didn’t want the real reason to be brought out on this second impeachment trial, which was the reason for everything coming to a halt! For who really was the people causing insurrection and destruction last summer and for the last 4 years?

No doubt in my mind the election wasn’t held right. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, our voting rights were tampered with and changed without going through the electoral process.

I could accept Biden’s win if it was done fair and square, but it wasn’t! And now our trust in the voting process will be forever challenged unless we the people take control of our voting rights.

Tenia Smith
Front Royal, Virginia

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Open Letter to Town and County officials on county’s high death rate per reported COVID cases

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Greetings Community Leader,

As the Front Royal Town Council members spend valuable work time in meetings discussing whether business owners should be allowed to require customers to wear masks to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus in our community, I am interested in finding out why people in Warren County die from the virus at a rate so much higher than people in most nearby counties. I’m sure this data has concerned you as a community leader as much, if not more, as it has me as a citizen. I am one concerned member of our community while you are a community leader tasked with finding solutions to the problems that plague our whole community. Surely, understanding the high death rate from Coronavirus in Warren County/Front Royal has been a pressing matter on your list of priorities.

Has your research shown that our high death rate is due to a poor health care system in our community? Is it because of the overall poor health of our residents? Is it something else? Please let the citizens of Front Royal and Warren County know what you have learned about why we are dying from COVID-19 more often than our neighbors in eleven nearby counties. The following data for Deaths per 100K people are from the Virginia Department of Health’s website on February 19, 2021:

County Deaths per 100K
Shenandoah 234
Page 171
Warren 100
Rockingham 94
Clarke 89
Culpepper 75
Fairfax 72
Prince William 70
Frederick 55
Fauquier 52
Madison 52
Loudoun 50
Stafford 36
Rappahannock 27

https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/coronavirus/covid-19-in-virginia-cases/

Cases – Coronavirus

Need vaccine? Learn how to get your shot at Vaccinate.Virginia.gov or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA. Language translation and TTY services available. 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ¿Necesita vacunarse?

www.vdh.virginia.gov

I look forward to hearing why you think we are doing so poorly and what ideas you have to prevent so many of our fellow citizens from dying of Covid.

Wishing you all good health,

Kelli Hart
Front Royal, Va.

(reprinted by permission of writer)

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Opinion

What’s really in a name?

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Lord Fairfax Community College has decided to change its name because it does not reflect who they are? Really? I thought it was a place of higher learning and opportunities!

I don’t like the name of Fauquier County. I don’t like the name Henry. I don’t like the color green! I don’t like to make mashed potatoes. But I don’t take this to the city council, or the board, or even D.C.!

This all has become so political! What are the bases of all of this? Why not just erase everything!

No one has names: No names on buildings, no names on highways, no names on envelopes, no names on anything? Why not walk around nameless and act like zombies!

We humans can’t seem to focus on the important things, like being kind and caring and making our futures better! Like helping others and looking out for one another. All we seem to be about nowadays is hate, anger, and destruction.

What a sad place the world has become; what a sad place our country has become! The more we seek peace, the more uproar of evil becomes!

Tenia Smith
Front Royal, Virginia

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Sure Representative Ben Cline wants to move past January 6th accountability

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Rep. Ben Cline opines that Congressional Democrats and presumably Republicans who voted to impeach and convict Donald Trump were wasting time.

Donald Trump was impeached for his role in instigating the insurrection and attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.  He was acquitted in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 57 to 43.  He got the 43. Try that in baseball.

Mr. Cline is anxious to get on with business and well he should be.

Why did the president urge his followers to go to the Capitol that day?  He made it quite clear that he wanted them to go in support of those Members of Congress who were supporting his claim that the 2020 election had been stolen from him and them.

The story of a stolen election was the Big Lie.  The election was not stolen.  There is no evidence that it was.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader, made that clear after the acquittal of the former President on February 13.

Senator McConnell blamed the former president and “other powerful people” for perpetuating the Big Lie.  Now, who were those “other powerful people?”  Why they were Members of Congress of course who continued to spread the Big Lie.  Who is on the list of Members of Congress who told the people that if they could just find the votes to overturn the certification of the Electoral College votes all would be well?

Rep. Ben Cline is on the list.

Mr. Cline knew full well that the votes were not there to require a reshuffling of the electoral deck.  He knew his encouragement of the insurrectionists would only end in their frustration and anger, the anger that was on display on January 6.

Why did Ben Cline do this?  Because he wanted to provide Trump supporters in the 6th District with an empty gesture proving his fealty to the former president.

Even after he saw the anger that resulted in the death of a police officer and others in the Capitol, Ben Cline marched down to the floor of the House and perpetuated the Big Lie one more time.

It is small wonder that Ben Cline wants to change the subject.

Mr. Cline thinks the effort to hold responsible those who instigated the attack on the Capitol is a waste of time.  He wants people to look away from him.

Tom Howarth
Warren County, Virginia

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