About

News

Lincoln's Moral Courage

Taylor Stockdale
I just saw Spielberg’s Lincoln. It was a movie I long anticipated, and it did not disappoint. At the same time, I am currently rereading Larry McMillin’s wonderful account of Sawney Webb (Thompson Webb’s father). The Schoolmakeris a work of art, and in it, Mr. McMillin describes in detail Sawney’s war years as a confederate soldier from 1861-1865. Sawney’s school making years were preceded by hellish times in the trenches of battle. He was wounded badly, and taken as a prisoner of the Union just prior to the conclusion of the war. By the time he began building a school in the late 1860’s – 1870’s, it was in the backdrop of the Reconstruction in the Deep South. Nonetheless, with his brother John, he slowly constructed a school in Bell Buckle, Tennessee that soon became known for producing more Rhodes Scholars per capita than any school in the nation.

Watching the movie and reading the book has made me think about Lincoln’s wonderful example of moral courage – a trait central to Webb’s mission today.

Throughout the summer of 1862, President Lincoln resolved he would issue a presidential proclamation emancipating slaves. He knew that this action would be highly controversial and that many would call for his impeachment as a result. The war was not going well for the Union at that time, and he did not want this action to be interpreted as an act of desperation. So he waited for a military victory in the field before acting. The war at that moment was being pursued solely to save the Union, a cause that united the North. Abolition, though popular in his own Republican Party, would risk dividing the North. Outside of his cabinet, no one was aware of Lincoln’s intentions.

At that moment, while waiting for a victory, Lincoln was publically attacked by Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune, then the most popular Republican newspaper in the country. Greeley chastised him not striking at the very source of the rebellion, the ultimate cause of the war, slavery. Obviously, Lincoln could not reply that he would soon be doing exactly what Greeley wanted. Instead, he used that opportunity to prepare the ground. He replied publically by saying that while his own personal opinions were antislavery, that his sole public duty as the president of all Americans was to preserve the Union and that whatever he did or did not do on the subject of slavery would be designed to save the Union, nothing more. At that moment, his reply seemed only to validate Greeley’s accusation. But Lincoln had his eye on the ball. He knew that following his proclamation, many in the North would be calling for his impeachment, but he provided the needed defense in his response to Greeley. On September 17, 1862, news arrived that a tremendous battle had been fought in northern Maryland at a place called Sharpsburg, along Antietam Creek, a one-day battle that is still the single most bloody day in all of U.S. history. Lincoln saw his chance as the Confederate army retreated, and several days later he issued his Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Many professional historians have joined Greeley in castigating Lincoln as being too timid. The fact that his first Emancipation Proclamation of September 22, 1862 was only a warning to the South was used against him. Lincoln said that if the South would surrender before January 1, 1863, there would be no emancipation. Of course, President Lincoln knew that the Confederacy would not take this bait. At that moment, the South was generally performing well on the field of battle. Lincoln’s ploy was solely to appear reasonable while performing the most radical constitutional act ever undertaken by any American president before or since.

On January 1, 1863 Lincoln took great relish in signing the real Emancipation Proclamation as a war measure to save the Union. But the drama was not yet over. As late as the summer of 1864, a year after the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the war was going badly for the North, and Lincoln mused privately that he might lose his bid to be reelected in November of that year due to war weariness. Jefferson Davis, serving a six year term as president of the Confederate States of America never had to face that kind of political challenge. Lincoln came under great pressure even from some in his own party to renege on his Emancipation Proclamation. And the leader of those demanding that he make such an offer to the South was none other than Horace Greeley. Lincoln refused to budge, and in the end several key military victories in the field helped restore Northern confidence. Lincoln won reelection and went on to oversee Congress sending the 13th Amendment to the states for ratification, making the destruction of slavery a permanent part of the American Constitution.

Throughout the entire course of the war, Lincoln acted creatively and boldly to nurture the hatching of what first was just an egg into a full-fledged rooster. He never lived to see the final result, as he was assassinated in April of 1865 and a sufficient number of states did not ratify the 13th Amendment until December of that year. But he left us an important example of moral courage under the most difficult of conditions. He did not care how he might appear in the press. He did not care how those living in the future might view his actions. All that he cared about was being persistent, following through and doing what was necessary to bring about a better day. Unlike Greeley, he was not a “fair-weather friend,” but rather a “man for all seasons.”

I am proud of our schools’ mission that encourages “acting with honor and moral courage” and “leading with distinction.” The reason why many regard Lincoln as our greatest president is that he demonstrated these values so well. His example also illustrates to me how complex the world can be, and how important it is to stick to what is right, even when it can be the far more difficult path.
Back

Read More News

Alumni News

List of 4 news stories.

  • L to R: Rachael Schiffris ’11, Katherine Kilmer ’10, Ed Ratinoff ’83, Sarah Sun ’10, Ariel Fan ’10

    Networking Essentials with Webb Alumni

    Michael Simonelli
    On January 12, 2019 five accomplished alumni returned to campus for our first ever Networking Essentials with Webb Alumni session. The panel of speakers represented several industries including law, real estate, green energy and marketing. Eager students spent their Saturday afternoon with our incredible alumni learning about the vital skills needed to effectively network and succeed in the increasingly complex job market. Each panelist spoke about a different aspect of networking and gave a brief background of their journey after Webb.
    Read More
  • Young alumni panel at the Affiliates meeting

    Young Alumni Return to Webb

    During the first week back from winter break, students and parents had a chance to hear from young alumni about their experiences at college including managing academics and being away from home, maintaining a healthy mind and body, as well as a panel on college athletics.
    Read More
  • Marcelo Leonardi '94 Receives Distinguished Coaching Award

    USA Water Polo has announced Marcelo Leonardi '94 as the Midwest Zone recipient of the Sandy Nitta Distinguished Coaching Award. Leonardi is the Head Coach of the women's water polo team at the University of Michigan.
    Read More
  • Holiday Events in Los Angeles & San Francisco

    We enjoyed seeing alumni, parents and friends at the holiday events in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
    Read More
Archive

Webb News

List of 4 news stories.

  • Fall/Winter 2019

    “The process of finding the right college is more often than not riddled with anxiety for both students and their families. It is paradoxically both increasingly complex and more streamlined than ever. Technology allows students to simply add multiple colleges to the Common Application with a few clicks. And yet the convenience doesn’t reflect the intricate web of criteria that factor into applying to one college over another.”
     
    So opens the feature to our recent issue of WEBB Magazine. Reported and written by Christopher Michno, the piece delves into the myths and truths intertwined in the college admission process. He also offers up a series of personal success stories from recent Webb alumni now thriving at Stanford, Columbia, UC Berkeley and beyond. Part two follows young alumni who chose colleges related to their avocations—like art, business, engineering and others. The feature photography is done by Elisa Ferrari and focuses on the beautiful and varied architecture of the Claremont Colleges.
    Read More
  • Winter Dance Performance

    The Winter Dance Show 2019 UN / covered - is an exploration in what it means to cover and uncover - in music, dance, costuming, and text. Featuring choreography by dance coach and Webb faculty member Michael Szanyi and senior dance students, the show highlights self-expression through movement. How do we make something known? How do we bring that to light? By uncovering dance, the show asks audience members to explore how the study of movement informs their human experience.
    Read More
  • The Art & Science of Decision Making

    It is no accident, I believe, that at this very moment there is a riveting tale in The New Yorker  about the art and science of decision making. Or, at least, not an accident that I found it and read it. Here at Webb, at this time of year, there is no shortage of students and families making some of the most important decisions (they believe) of their lives--from admission to and enrollment at Webb, to college admission for our seniors. Joshua Rothman rights beautifully about it here, bringing in examples from Darwin, Tolstoy, the modern parent and more. Read it in The New Yorker.
    Read More
  • Dr. Farke & Alf Museum in The Washington Post

    Augustyn Family Curator and Director of Research & Collections Andrew Farke is quoted today in The Washington Post on the impact of the federal government shutdown on fieldwork planning for paleontologists. Beyond the impact on visitor centers at such places as Dinosaur National Monument and the Petrified Forest National Park, research and fieldwork on federal lands has been dramatically affected, too. Read more in The Washington Post.
    Read More
Archive

Sports Blog

List of 4 news stories.

Archive
The Webb Schools Boarding Preparatory School California Private School Financial Aid Paleontology College Placement Top Academics Faculty Ph.D Community Fun