Letters

Doug Smith
Kansas City, Missouri


Rethinking Lincoln

I rarely disagree with Nat Hentoff's columns. However, in "The Hidden Supreme Court" [Liberty Beat, April 21-27], he asserts: "It was George W. Bush, without going to the courts or to Congress, who, by himself, decided that Hamdi and Padilla, though American citizens, were entitled to none of the fundamental due process rights in the Constitution. No previous president has done this."

This is patently false—President Lincoln, without going through Congress, suspended habeas corpus in 1861 by proclamation, and arrested many (scores of?) Americans, imprisoning them for years in some cases. In 1863, Congress actually got around to passing legislation that gave Lincoln the authority to do such (for legally, only Congress, not the executive, can suspend habeas corpus). Effectively, what Mr. Bush has done is to suspend habeas corpus—he just hasn't stated it in such a manner.

I don't know the details of the history, but surely the imprisonment of numerous citizens of Japanese descent by FDR in World War II is another example. However, perhaps Congress gave him authority to do so. But there's no question that Lincoln was just as "bad" (actually, many times worse, on this particular issue) as King George II, and it is perhaps not coincidental that both were Republicans.


Pass the Dutch

Re John Giuffo's "I'll Take (Dutch) Manhattan" [Education Supplement, April 14-20]:

I've been amazed at the free pass being given to Russell Shorto's assertion in The Island at the Center of the World that New Netherland was a paradise of tolerance and diversity. How could Giuffo fail to acknowledge that the slavery of Africans, the ethnic cleansing of Indians, the persecution of Jews, and the execution of homosexuals were not only legal but popular? And New Amsterdam's mandatory laws for observance of the Sabbath, crimi- nalization of maypoles and the bawdy singing that went along with them, and the obsessive regulation of public and private sale and consumption of alcohol make Giuliani look like the Pope of Dope.

The key here is the word tolerance, which shouldn't be taken as a synonym for freedom. The former is something offered by authorities, the latter claimed as a self-evident, universal right. The Dutch knew the difference, then and now.

I cover much of this in my book The Wishing Tree: A History of Harlem, forthcoming from Grove/Atlantic.

Jonathan Gill
Department of English and Comparative Literature Columbia University
Morningside Heights


B/d wrong

Re R.C. Baker's review of the Loser's Lounge tribute to Jesus on April 11, 2004 ["W.W.J. Redo?" The Sound of the City, April 14-20]:

The name is Jedediah. With a d, not a b. "Jedediah" is an Americanization of "Jedidiah," which appears in Samuel 12:25 meaning "beloved of Jehovah." "Jebediah" comes from The Simpsons. No-where else. It is certainly not in any Bible.

Jeb Bush's name is John Ellis Bush. Solomon was called Jedidiah. With a d.

Having said all that, thanks for the nice review. And thank you for spelling my last name correctly, which is often misspelled "Parrish" like "Maxfield."

Jedediah Parish
Boston, Massachusetts


Corrections

n Jason McBride's "The Kindest Cut" (April 21-27), Clear Cut Press's phone number was given incorrectly. It is 503-338-4421.

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