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Was Abraham Lincoln an Atheist?

June 24, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Every U.S. president has been a member of a church, except for one: Abraham Lincoln.

Famously opaque on the subject of religion, Lincoln’s personal faith was something even his closest friends said they couldn’t figure out. Though he became more interested in religious questions toward the end of his life, “Honest Abe” never directly identified himself as a Christian—even after he realized it could hurt him politically.

“He once spoke of how not having any kind of noticeable religious profile had levied what he called a tax on his popularity with the voters,” says Allen Guelzo, a professor of Civil War-era studies at Gettysburg College and author of Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President. “It was something that he was aware of, something he tried to cope with, and yet he wouldn’t go the distance of trying to pretend that he was something that he wasn’t.”

Lincoln’s religious views shifted throughout his life, as most people’s do. He grew up in a Baptist household but was never baptized as a child or an adult, and in his early 20s he was outspoken about his religious skepticism.

“He would actually be aggressive on the subject of unbelief,” Guelzo says. “More than one observer who knew him from those days said that Lincoln could shock people.” For example, he might say the Bible was just an ordinary book, or that Jesus Christ was an illegitimate child. “By the time he moves into his late 20s, early 30s, he has started to temper that because he realizes that doesn’t get him very far politically.”

During his failed campaign to be a Whig nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1843, Lincoln observed that the absence of religious affiliation hurt him. “It was everywhere contended that no Christian ought to go for me, because I belonged to no church,” he wrote. Three years later, after he secured the Whig nomination for the House, he faced more accusations about his faith from his opponent, a revivalist preacher named Peter Cartwright. By then Lincoln had learned not to flout his skepticism, and knew he needed to address his critics.

“That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true,” he responded in a handbill; “but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians …read more


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Apollo 11 Moon Landing Timeline: From Liftoff to Splashdown

June 24, 2019 in History

By Dave Roos

Neil Armstrong’s celebrated “one small step” was far from the most dangerous maneuver in the effort to send three men to the moon and return them home a week later. See a timeline of the entire mission.

On July 20, 1969, just eight years after President John F. Kennedy threw down the Cold War gauntlet and announced the ambitious goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted the American flag in the dusty lunar soil.

Below is a timeline of the historic Apollo 11 flight from launch to splashdown.

Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon B. Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11 from pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center at 9:32 am EDT on July 16, 1969.

Mission Time 00:00:00: Apollo 11 Launches

To overcome the Earth’s orbital gravity, NASA required a rocket 100 times more powerful than the Mercury boosters that launched the first American astronaut into orbit in 1961. The three-stage Saturn V was as big as a Navy destroyer, packed 7.5 million pounds of thrust and could catapult the Apollo 11 astronauts to a maximum velocity of 25,000 mph.

To fuel all that power, the Saturn V was filled to the brim with nearly a million gallons of kerosene, liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. Michael Neufeld, a senior curator in the space history department of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, says that the ignition of the Saturn V boosters was the first of many tense moments on Apollo 11.

“If the Saturn V blew up on or near the launch pad, it would have the force of a small nuclear weapon,” says Neufeld.

02:44:16: One Loop Around Earth, Then Moon-Bound

After firing and jettisoning two of the Saturn V’s three engines, the spacecraft entered Earth’s orbit at nearly 120 miles above the surface. After one swing around the planet, the third-stage J-2 rocket ignited, hurling the Apollo astronauts out of near-Earth orbit and on a trajectory toward the moon.

Diagram of Lunar Landing Mission and time table of events for the scheduled July 16th blastoff of Apollo 11.

03:24:03: Vessels Rearrange in Space

Next came a truly tricky dance move. Aside from the Saturn V boosters, the Apollo 11 hardware consisted of three vessels: the Lunar Module (LM), codenamed “Eagle,” to transport two astronauts to and …read more


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Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” is published

June 24, 2019 in History

By Editors

Henry David Thoreau’s classic Walden, or, A Life in the Woods is required reading in many classrooms today. But when it was first published—on this day in 1854—it sold just around 300 copies a year.

The American transcendentalist writer’s work is a first-person account of his experimental time of simple living at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, starting in 1845, for two years and two months. The book explores Thoreau’s views on nature, politics and philosophy.

Thoreau was a 27-year-old Harvard graduate when he moved to Walden. He built the simple 10-by-15-foot cabin along the shore of the 62-acre pond, a mile from the nearest neighbor, on land owned by his friend, poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” he wrote.

His only income came from the labor of his own hands. Thoreau farmed the land, eating and selling his crops, which included beans, potatoes, corn, peas and turnips, made frequent trips into town (including to see his mother, who lived up the road) and entertained visitors.

The initial print run was 2,000 copies, with each book priced at $1, and took five years to sell out. Later shortened to Walden, per Thoreau’s request, it was one of just two full-length books published by the author (though he published shorter works including the notable essay “Civil Disobedience”). His first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, released in 1849, was also written during his time at Walden, as a memorial to his late brother John.

READ MORE: Thoreau Started a Forest Fire a Year Before Writing “Walden”

…read more


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Rebels strike Union at the Battle of Mechanicsville

June 24, 2019 in History

By Editors

At the Battle of Mechanicsville, Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia strikes Union General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac, beginning the Seven Days’ Battles. Although the Confederates sustained heavy losses and did not succeed in decisively defeating the Yankees, the battle had unnerved McClellan. During the next week, Lee drove him from the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia, back to his base on the James River.

This was Lee’s first battle as commander of the army. On June 1, 1862, he had replaced Joseph Johnston, who was severely wounded at the Battle of Fair Oaks. McClellan’s offensive had stalled just five miles from Richmond, and his army remained there until late June. During that time, General J.E.B. Stuart and his Rebel cavalry made a spectacular ride around McClellan’s force, bringing back information that indicated that McClellan’s right flank was “in the air,” or unprotected by natural barriers. Lee informed his commanders on June 23 of his intention to attack the flank, occupied by Fitz John Porter’s V corps, which was separated from the rest of the Union army by the Chickahominy River. This was a bold move–because it meant leaving a skeleton force to face the rest of McClellan’s army south of the Chickahominy–and an early indication of Lee’s audacious style.

But the attack did not go as planned. McClellan, alerted to the vulnerability of his flanks by Stuart’s ride two weeks prior, had shored up his left, and moved Porter’s men to high ground with a deep creek in front of them. Lee’s plan had called for several smaller forces to overwhelm Porter’s men, but it required precise timing. When the assault came, the coordination did not materialize. A major problem, among others, was General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps, which was slow to move into place. Jackson was just back from his brilliant campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, but he showed none of his previous vigor and speed at Mechanicsville.

Lee planned to bring about 55,000 troops against Porter, but the mistakes made by Jackson and others meant there were only about 11,000. Lee lost 1,475 men; Union losses were only 361. But Lee had stunned McClellan, who then began to fall back away from Richmond. Lee continued to hammer on McClellan for the next week, and the Yankees retreated to the James River. McClellan did not threaten Richmond again, and he …read more


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The 1970s Cruise Ship Nightmare That Ended in a Mutiny

June 24, 2019 in History

By Robert Klara

It was a little after 3:00 a.m. on July 2, 1978 when those aboard the S.S. America realized the voyage was doomed.

Things had gotten off to an uneasy start nine hours before, when some 900 passengers assembled at Manhattan’s West 54th Street pier and found a problem with the tickets. Some paying customers had never received them, while others couldn’t find their names on the manifest. Finally, with the ship running late, a voice barked: “Get on board, tickets or no tickets!”

A 1978 brochure for the S.S. America.

With crime rates soaring and its economy in the ditch, New York was a difficult place to live in 1978. Little wonder so many locals in need of a summer escape noticed Venture Cruise Lines’ advertising for the S.S. America, a shopworn ocean liner restored to its prewar elegance. Venture promised no end of onboard pampering, but it was the ticket prices that seduced. Fares for a two-night cruise to nowhere started at $99—a fare so low it was hard to believe.

But now that the voyage was underway, passengers couldn’t believe the predicament they were in. Many discovered that faulty plumbing had flooded their cabins. Beds lacked bedsheets—and often mattresses, too. Toilets refused to flush. While dismayed passengers darted around trying to find a spot to settle, so did a phalanx of cockroaches and rats. S.S. America, one woman later said, was a “floating garbage can.”

Bad as the cabins were, the factor that tipped anger into chaos was this: at least 100 paying passengers never found cabins at all. Homeless at sea, they massed outside the purser’s office and began chanting: “We want to get off!”

Conditions deteriorated quickly. The angriest passengers picked fistfights with the crew. Harbor police boarded the ship. By now the America had dropped anchor near Coney Island, and the captain acceded to the mob’s demands. After the crew opened the hull’s watertight doors, 250 passengers clambered down rope ladders, jumping down to the decks of tugboats pulled up below. The tugs dumped the cruise refugees on Staten Island, then took off. Venture’s promise of chauffeured limousine rides home for everyone came to nothing.

The next morning, tabloids feasted on the overnight debacle. DREAM CRUISE LIKE NAUTICAL NIGHTMARE hollered the front page of the Daily News, which recounted the “mini-mutiny” in sordid detail. Without admitting the company had booked passengers on decks that were uninhabitable, a Venture representative …read more


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Sanders-Ocasio-Cortez Plan to Cap Credit Card Interest Rates Will Backfire on Consumers

June 24, 2019 in Economics

By Todd Zywicki

Todd Zywicki

Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
recently introduced their first joint piece of legislation —
a proposal to impose a national interest-rate ceiling of 15% on all consumer
credit products, from credit cards to payday loans. They promise
that capping interest rates on credit cards and other consumer
loans will benefit working families, but history indicates the
benefit will come at the expense of everyone else —
especially the half of all households who pay their balances every

The ubiquity of general purpose credit cards (such as Visa and
MasterCard) for middle-class Americans is a relatively recent
phenomenon. In 1970 only 16% of American households had general
purpose credit cards, and only two percent of low-income
households, primarily because restrictive interest-rate ceilings
made it too risky to lend to all but the wealthiest Americans.
Credit card issuers offset their inability to charge a market rate
of interest by imposing annual fees or bundling credit cards with
other products such as checking accounts (which carried higher
monthly fees in states with more restrictive usury ceilings). But
consumers hate annual fees, especially those who do not
carry balances but were forced to subsidize those who do. Moreover,
annual fees were highly regressive, as every consumer paid the same
annual card fee regardless of whether they charged $3,000 or
$30,000 a year. Annual fees also stifled competition as most
consumers were willing to pay to carry only one card, at most.

Credit card interest
rates can creep up on American consumers, but the answer to this
problem isn’t politicians promising to lower rates.

America’s complicated credit history

Retailers, such as department and appliance stores, had a more
effective way to evade interest rate ceilings — they
simply marked-up the price of the goods they sold to
offset losses from their credit operations. One study from the era found the price of goods
typically financed (such as major appliances) was 3% to 8% higher
in states with more restrictive usury ceilings than the identical
products in neighboring states. Consumers, especially higher-risk
ones, obtained much more of their credit from retailers (instead of
banks) in states with stricter usury ceilings. The need for
retailers to provide financing for customers provided a major
competitive advantage to huge department store chains (such as
Sears and JC Penney) that could better bear the cost and risk of
extensive credit departments over smaller competitors. Meanwhile,
cash customers paid inflated retail prices to subsidize below-cost
financing to credit purchasers.

Those who needed credit for non-durable goods, such as medical
bills or a car repair, were forced to rely …read more

Source: OP-EDS