”There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.” — Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, Ill., Jan. 27, 1838
Not since the War of 1812 has the United States Capitol been breached like it was this week by a mob of rioters bent on violence and destruction.
Interrupting the United States Senate and House of Representatives, along with the vice president, the rioters thought they would halt the machinery of democracy and government, doing its lawful duty in counting electors from the various states to give final determination that Joe Biden will be this nation’s 46th president come Jan. 20 — a transition that has been peaceful every four years since this republic became a democratic nation, with a Constitution such as the world had never before witnessed.
Seeing guns forced to be drawn by law enforcement, and Confederate flags carried into the Capitol, is a bridge too far.
Way too far.
Demonstrating peacefully is one thing and is to be expected and a right of American citizens.
Rioting and violence are not guaranteed under any law of this land, and are not to be condoned, whomever it is that is rioting and breaking the law — or inciting laws to be broken.
It was domestic terrorism and mob mentality at its most obscene.
Back to the War of 1812, and in the year 1814 of the conflict, British troops who burned the White House and parts of America’s Capitol, were an enemy — a foreign force which had landed on these shores to win a war.
America and its Colonial Army and its greatest leader — George Washington — had beaten the British in the long American Revolutionary War to give us with their blood and sacrifice a Capitol, a White House and a federal government to unite the former 13 Colonies.
Even though it was ill-fated and not the smartest move by England — the world’s greatest power at the time — it helped coalesce Americans to bring this country together and to defend it against a foreign invader.
It gave us our national anthem — Frances Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
It gave us a military hero, when Gen. Andrew Jackson roundly defeated a formidable British force at the Battle of New Orleans with a rag-tag cross section of what America was at the time — a vast mixture of people who had immigrated here to the land of the free and the home of the brave.
That army, led by a tough and gritty South Carolinian called “Old Hickory,” was made up of frontiersmen from Tennessee and Kentucky, Louisiana militia, businessmen from New Orleans, Free Men of Color, Choctaw Indians, pirates, sailors, Marines and United States troops.
They were some of the very first to give title and action to “the home of the brave,” as in Key’s stirring words that end “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
It put an exclamation point on what it would take to overcome the United States of America — a hodgepodge army that decimated Gen. Sir Edward Packenham’s Napoleonic Wars’ veteran British force.
When America was initially invaded by the British Aug. 24, 1814, British troops marched into Washington and set fire to the U.S. Capitol, the White House and other government buildings.
The ensuing fire reduced all but one of the capital city’s major buildings to rubble.
As I’ve written in the past, a deluge from a sudden storm saved the Capitol from complete destruction — as if by the hand of Divine Providence.
The vast blaze that lit up our nation’s seat of government devastated the Senate wing of the Capitol, the oldest part of the building, with its wood floors and a valuable, vulnerable collection of books and manuscripts in the Library of Congress, which in 1814 was located in the Capitol building.
History states that the intense fire reduced the Senate chamber’s marble columns to lime, leaving what was termed “a most magnificent ruin.”
One of nation’s foremost Founding Fathers, President James Madison, quickly arranged for Congress to temporarily meet at Blodgett’s Hotel when it returned to session that following September, and the business of Congress continued uninterrupted.
Not until 1819, after a major reconstruction project, did the U.S. Senate again meet in the historic Old Senate Chamber in the Capitol.
On Jan. 6 last, in the year of our Lord 2021, the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives were attacked, but in relatively short order were restored to their rightful places in our democracy, and allowed to do the people’s business once again — as it has for our republic’s more than two centuries.
What happened on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C., was un-American, domestic terrorism and beyond unacceptable.
It cannot be defended in any discussion of democracy.
And I ask this question of America — is this now who we are?
I’m betting it’s not.