Saint Petersburg Branch of the Russian Humanist Society
An Unparalleled Page in the History of Humanism

In the chanceful history of humanism one ought to note especially the Civil War in the USA. From the moral point of view it is without precedent. Due to its auspicious combination of high aim and a profound word with a good and disinterested deed it has rendered the genuine grandeur to the democracy.

It is relevant to remind in this connection the episode when Sholom Aleykhem had appealed to Leo Tolstoy for assistance in elimination of the shameful discrimination of Jews in Russia. He had been extremely troubled about woeful destiny of his tribesmen who had been abased to a status of second-rate citizens. Especially, they had been allowed to dwell only beyond the "Pale" (sedentary line), that is to say, in the South-West of the Empire. I invite the reader to imagine: what events could shake Russia to such a degree that two parts of its aboriginal nation, the Russian one, would go to war one against another, the one part in order to erase the "Pale" from the planet and from memory, the other in order to conserve it and all epiphenomena in inviolability.

I understand very well that it is difficult to imagine such a thing. The more especially as the legal and material status of the Jews in the Empire had been far more favorable than that of the Negroes in the USA. But there had been bondmen, villains in Russia, whose lot had not differed very much from the destiny of the American Negroes? Both had been slaves in the absolute, ancient sense of the word. Both had been the productive force which had been the ownership of their owners, slave-holders - be that planters of the Republican USA or landlords of the monarchic Russia. Why then the "conscientious" part of Russia had not rebelled against those cruelties which had been practised by its "conscienceless" part?

Despite the brilliant breakthrough in the democracy that had been led by "Founding Fathers" of the American nation - Washington, Jefferson and others - they have a stain in their conscience. They had been "acquiescent" with the institution of slavery. The slaveholders had occupied the dominant status in the central authorities. Almost all the presidents had been originated from slave-owning milieu.

To the beginning of the War the population of the slave-holders' South have been 12 million men including 4 million Negroes-slaves. The latter ones, who have been overridden by the repressive apparatus, dissociated and intimidated, have not undertaken any organized efforts to modify their status. In the Northern states there have been 19 million dwellers, and a part of them (4 million of the emigrants of the "last wave") have been hardly sympathetic to the Negro population of their new motherland. Among the "aboriginal" white Northerners a great part have been sympathetic to the Southerners. Especially those who have been connected with them by business relations. The American capitalism have generated the American slavery and have supported it.

Well, it seems that nothing had promised the Afro-Americans a quick deliverance from the slavery. Too many factors have been unfavorable for them. The vital interests of too many authoritative people have been an obstacle for a drift to a better life for them. What could the humanism oppose to the force of the economic interest, if not to wait for the epoch when the latter would contradict with the economic practicability?

The matured humanism of the 20th century have opposed to up-to-the-minute shortsighted and prospectless economic interest of the Republican oligarchy the moral strength of the demos, the consciousness of the majority of the nation. And the democracy has found a brilliant fulfiller of the will of the progress in the person of A. Lincoln.

The motives, he had acted from, he have expressed in the following words: "I hate the slavery because the slavery is monstrously unrighteous. I hate it because it deprives our example of the Republicanism of its deserved influence in the world; it gives to enemies of free institutions a plausible possibility to mock us as hypocrites; it compels convinced friends of freedom to doubt our genuineness. And especially because the slavery compels many good people to be in a cryptic war with the main principles of the civil freedom". (R.F. Ivanov. Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War the USA. M. "Nauka", 1964).

Lincoln's victory in the presidential elections in 1860 has caused an attempt of denunciation of the Union, an attempt of 11 Southern states to desert it and to create a new State - the Confederation. In April 1861 the South has provoked the beginning of the Civil War. The year 1864 has come, the year of new presidential elections. The time when half a million white men had perished on battlefields for the Negroes' freedom, and more young Americans had returned home wounded and crippled. The time when the war has been absorbing daily "more than 2 million dollars, the treasury had been empty, the funded debt had reached an enormous sum of $1,700 million. In the ambience of helter-skelter and mess-up, which had arisen due to a large-ranged war, chevaliers of fortune and black marketeers of every kind had felt free-wheeling and comfortable. In federal institutions of the capital and everywhere and peculation had flourished opulently". (G.P. Kuropiatnikov. "Rush hour" in the USA History: 1864 Elections that had Determined the Union's Destiny // Novaya i Noveyshaya Istoriya. # 6/ 1997).

And in the moment of the greatest moral and physical ordeal, when the compromise with one's conscience had been the simplest thing in the world, when one could justify one's faint-heartedness by enormous victims that had already been sacrificed at the altar of SOMEBODY ELSE'S freedom, the nation ought to ask itself: in favor of what or whom it pays so profusely by its own blood? Lincoln and most of the nation had had the single answer: in the favor of the moral future. They had understood that they endured hardships and sufferings, they were prodigal of their citizens' lives for the right to reckon their state a great state firstly in the MORAL aspect.

"Remember that the solution of the question: 'whether the Union will be conserved and whether the freedoms of our country will be provided for the next generations' - depends not upon politicians, not upon presidents, not upon the anxious about a vacancy in the government, but upon yourselves", - Lincoln had said when addressing to electors, common people of America. Those people had reasoned rationally having given him their votes and having decided in this manner the result of the greatest in the history battle for freedom.

There is one key detail in the phenomenon of Lincoln's presidency, that had contributed to his civic and political exploit, equal to which can be hardly found both in the distant and in the adjacent past. It is a boundless people's confidence to his thoughts, words, and deeds, and the confidence had had its origin in his immaculate honesty, on the one hand, and in canniness and discretion, on the other hand.

When a conspiracy against the president had arisen among northerners sympathizing to southerners, the radicals from his milieu had demanded the cruelest repression against "slaveholders' agency" - up to dictatorship of the military. But Lincoln hadn't yielded to temptation to cut the Gordian knot at one bout. He had turned up to be more reasonable than Robespierre, Marx and Lenin; he had been patiently unknotting one knot after another, thus laying a strong foundation of the democracy in the USA. Whatever the ideological opponents of the USA would assert, the American pattern of democracy is much nearer to its modern ideal than another.

Responding to the assassination of Lincoln, the newspaper Sankt-Peterburgskiye Vedomosti from 14.04.1865 had remarked sagely: "If instead of him some impertinent ambitionist had been in power during the last four years, then maybe even the democratic America couldn't avoid the common destiny - maybe it would possess its Napoleon as well, with all the consequences that appearance of Caesars in a free country implies. Observance by the late president of the most stringent nomocracy during the epoch of a difficult and passionate struggle will be the best memory of him, his greatest right of historical celebrity, of the progeny's noble memory".

Not at once, not immediately, but passing through thousands of crucibles and treading down millennial prejudices, the white and the black parts of the American nation now merge in a unitary democratic entity, and it is due to its president Lincoln's courage and far-sightedness.

Givi Givishvili


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