David Blankenhorn Gets Another “F”

A debate about—of all things—Abraham Lincoln has broken out in the context of the Supreme Court’s calamitous and ridiculous Obergefell decision that imposed faux marriage on the whole country.

More than 60 legal scholars invoked Abraham Lincoln in a recent document urging both private citizens and officials at all levels of government to view the decision as illegitimate and against the constitution and to act that way.

The scholars, who include Professors Robert George of Princeton, Matthew Franck of Radford University and Hadley Arkes of Amherst, argue that this is precisely what Lincoln did in the aftermath of the Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court some thought denied citizenship to all blacks in the United States.

Lincoln rightly questioned the notion of judicial supremacy, that the Supreme Court is the law of the land rather than the constitution.

Lincoln viewed Dred Scott as illegitimate and he ignored it as a general law of the land. In fact, he directed departments of the government to ignore the decision and to grant a passport to a black man who wanted to travel to France, though only U.S. citizens could receive passports. Additionally, the U.S. patent office granted a patent to a black man even though patents could only be granted to U.S. citizens.

Erstwhile pro-family advocate David Blankenhorn took to the pages of The American Interest to show his outrage at what he views as the extremist and even lawless positions George et al. have taken. He takes special umbrage that the scholars have drafted Lincoln to their cause as well.

Not long ago, Blankenhorn would have stood with Professor George, but no longer.

David Blankenhorn was a respected scholar and advocate for the traditional family. He was a recognized leader in the movement that sought to restore and protect the family as the incubator of virtuous people and virtuous citizens.

Blankenhorn wrote books, articles, spoke at conferences, indeed organized them. He was viewed properly as one of the strongest and most important voices in defending the family.

Along came the call by those with same-sex attraction to be given the right to marry and Blankenhorn began to waver. It is one thing to tout the importance of family, quite another to exclude anyone from that definition, especially those who are the gatekeepers of polite society. His wavering became tottering.

Blankenhorn was called as one of the chief witnesses for the defense in the Proposition 8 trial in California, the proposition voted overwhelmingly by the citizens of California in favor of man-woman marriage. At that very moment, however, Blankenhorn had begun to think same-sex “marriage” would be a good thing. He said so on the stand. He said it would be good for America. We discovered later that the lawyer who represented traditional marriage was at that moment planning the wedding of his lesbian stepdaughter to her lover, but that is another story.

Though Blankenhorn said it would be a good thing for the country for two men to be able to marry, he had not yet come out full bore for faux marriage. That came later in—what else—a column in the New York Times. His tottering became a full collapse.

Blankenhorn said sodomitical love is equal in dignity to that between a man and a woman. Of course, this is not true for one is normal and natural and the other not. He said recognizing such couplings is simply fair and that the emerging consensus of “elites” and youngsters makes this so. He said he was weary of the “culture wars.” Surrender in this case was inevitable.

Blankenhorn shortly thereafter formed something he calls the Marriage Opportunity Council that purports to promote stability in all marriages, normal and not. This group includes mostly lefties but also other marriage quislings who are otherwise thought of as “conservative.”

I must admit Blankenhorn had never crossed my mind since he betrayed the marriage cause in 2012, but then he raised his colors on marriage, Obergefell, and Lincoln. His argument about Lincoln hangs largely on a single quote of dubious provenance. Lincoln supposedly said, ““The Supreme Court of the United States is the tribunal to decide such questions [the constitutionality of laws on slavery], and we [Republicans] will submit to its decisions; and if you [Democrats] do also, there will be an end of the matter.”

The problem is, Lincoln never said it. In fact, while it was attributed to him, he later explicitly denied it. The quote came from the memory—not even the notes—of a reporter.

Matthew Franck immediately struck back in the pages of National Review citing multiple quotes from Lincoln’s own writing supporting the position now cited by those who call for disavowal of Obergefell. Hadley Arkes did the same in the pages of the Public Discourse.

Blankenhorn criticizes the legal scholars’ document because they use only a single quote from Lincoln so both Franck and Arkes provide many more, something a scholar of Blankenhorn’s self-regard likely could have found himself.

Franck and Arkes provide quotes from his speeches, debates, and notes backing up their claim that Lincoln viewed judicial supremacy and Dred Scott in precisely the way the legal scholars view judicial supremacy and Obergefell. Moreover, they provide examples of how his views were practiced by his administration.

In taking down Blankenhorn, both Franck and Arkes did so with a fair amount of sarcasm, at least the kind that is allowed in the academy and I must admit a fair amount of joy I took in this, particularly given Blankenhorn’s rather inflated view of himself.

About the phony quote that holds up Blankenhorn’s creaky argument, Franck says, “[Blankenhorn] evidently does not know that Lincoln effectively claimed never to have stated the position Blankenhorn attributes to him.”

Where Blankenhorn asserts his own authority for having “studied under” Lincoln scholar David Donald, Franck says, “but he has not studied Lincoln himself closely enough.”

Franck charges Blankenhorn with selective quotations, which is the academic equivalent of at least fibbing.

Arkes goes even stronger, referring to Blankenhorn not as a friend but “a friend of years gone by.” He says, “The restatement of Lincoln’s teaching seemed to be jolting because it brought him news, something so novel, he reckoned, that it couldn’t be true.” If you know Hadley’s voice you can even hear the gentle yet pointed sarcasm.

Arkes, too, pokes a bit of fun at Blankenhorn’s assertion about his own learning: “[Blankenhorn] made a point of telling us about studying at the feet of David Donald” who Arkes criticizes for “treating as risible Lincoln’s understanding of ‘all men are created equal.’”

“That Blankenhorn learned his history from this source explains what has been filtered from his understanding of Lincoln…,” says Arkes.

It appears that Blankenhorn’s scholarship is as faux as the faux marriage he now supports.

We should thank God for those who have not turned tail and run on this most important issue of our time. We can be sure Lincoln would never have.

Austin Ruse

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Austin Ruse is president of C-FAM (Center for Family & Human Rights), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute focusing on international legal and social policy. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of C-FAM.

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