The Corner

Mystic Chords

Since 2006, Virginia has been spending $2 million per year to fund a special commission whose purpose is to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which formally begins next year. It’s led by an excellent scholar: James I. Robertson Jr., whose biography of Stonewall Jackson is first rate. Maybe some good will come of this. There are certainly worse ways for Richmond to spend tax dollars.

But should governments fund historical commissions? The federal Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission was a bust, as I reported in NR. Seems to me that when it comes to Lincoln and the Civil War, Americans do a pretty good job of commemoration on their own:

Do we really need a top-down federal commission to promote the commemoration of Lincoln, or are ordinary Americans already doing a perfectly adequate job of honoring him from the bottom up? It turns out that the mystic chords of memory may not require a taxpayer subsidy.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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