Written by Ralph E. Shaffer
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Thursday, 11 May 2017

Not content with wiping out numerous executive orders issued by his predecessor, President Donald Trump today signed a document canceling Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Surrounded by officials from the Merchants and Manufacturers Association, Trump justified his undoing of Lincoln's hallowed edict on strictly conservative, pro-business grounds.

"Regardless of whatever merit Lincoln's proclamation had, it was an unconscionable attack on the sanctity of private property, a right that cannot be denied by the stroke of a pen. Tens of thousands of honest, hard-working Americans found their constitutionally legitimate property wrested from them by the then president's executive order. That precedent must not stand, for it will encourage other leftist radicals to confiscate guns or other personal or business property."

The immediate effect of Trump's rescission was the filing of a class action suit by a little known Southern organization, "Sons and Daughters of Slaveholders." An attorney for "Sons and Daughters" argued that his clients were entitled to reparations. Based on the value of slaves in 1863, when Lincoln signed his executive order, and pegged to the price of gold then and now, with interest compounded, the attorney estimated the total amount of reparations to be between one and two trillion dollars.

When reporters asked how the government could pay that amount, press secretary Sean Spicer suggested that the burden ought to fall on those who benefited from the proclamation. "Blacks have enjoyed over a century and a half of American freedom. Surely they will gladly pay their fair share."

Would Trump also erase Franklin Roosevelt's executive order that sent Americans of Japanese descent to relocation camps? "No," Spicer replied, "we may need that one for a precedent if we have to lock up some Americans during a future crisis."

But in an interview with Keith Olbermann, Trump hinted at more to come.

"When Donald Junior was in Advanced Placement Kindergarten at the taxpayer supported John Birch Fundamental Charter School, his teacher had the kids read and critique an article by David Lawrence, then editor of U. S. News and World report. Lawrence wrote that "There is no Fourteenth Amendment," building a case that not only it but the 13th and 15th Amendments as well were illegally adopted. All the leftist civil rights acts and court decisions of the past 70 years are built on amendments that don't exist. Some states were forced to ratify them. Other states that willfully ratified canceled their approval but the radicals in congress wouldn't let them change their vote. Perhaps next week we will wipe out all three with another executive order."


Ralph E. Shaffer is professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly Pomona. reshaffer@cpp.edu

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