This year's theme, "A Legacy of Liberty - Celebrating
Lincoln's Bicentennial" is especially significant for
us, as it permits us to celebrate a Connecticut organization
and a Connecticut author who have done so much to preserve
the legacy of Lincoln.
Amistad America, represented today by its Chair and CEO, Mr.
Gregory Belanger, is probably best known to many as the
organization that sponsors the freedom schooner Amistad.
What you may not know is the extent of the education
initiatives that they sponsor. The message of the Amistad is
based in the story of the court cases that originated in New
Haven in 1839, and which were ultimately appealed to the
United States Supreme Court, resulting in the release of the
Mendi tribesmen who had illegally been forced into slavery.
The case of United States v. La Amistad was among
those the Connecticut Supreme Court highlighted at our own
200th anniversary celebration just last year.
Justice Norcott's remarks on
that occasion, detailing the significance of the case,
included the following which I suggest to you encapsulate
the reason we honor Amistad America on Law Day this year:
The rule of law
demanded that the men be set free. For ours is a system of
laws, and not of men. It was not the preference of the
attorney general, or President Adams, that ultimately
determined the outcome of this case. The proper operation of
the rule of law in a system of government that respects the
rights of all and the freedom of each could countenance no
other result. The opinion also upheld the right to rebel
against unlawful slavery. Finally, the opinion of the United
States Supreme Court issued in 1841 signaled to the South
that slavery, where it had been abolished, would remain so
under the rule of law.
no wonder, then, that Connecticut is proud to have
Amistad as our state's official tall ship. She
represents us well. Her voyages are an inspiration to many
and have reached the far corners of the world. In 2008, when
she returned from one of her many international tours,
freedom schooner Amistad had sailed more the 14,000
miles, had been visited by thousands of school children, and
conducted more than 50 public ceremonies and sailing events.
This particular tour was designed to raise awareness of the
history of the Atlantic slave trade and the stories of
resistance waged by black and white abolitionists. If I may
quote from Amistad's own report: "throughout the voyage,
freedom schooner Amistad has worked with museums and
educational outreach programs to tell the history of the
trade and to highlight the significant way the legacy of
that history reflects in today’s social, political and
cultural character. The voyage included a special two-month
stay in Freetown, Sierra Leone, the original West African
homeland of many of the Amistad captives. This
symbolic “homecoming” was a profound experience as the crew,
students and church organizations, non-governmental
organizations and the governments of Britain, the United
States and the United Nations worked together in a show of
cooperation and the celebration of peace and reconciliation
after the Sierra Leone civil war."
Photo: Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers along with honoree
Gregory Belanger, Chair and CEO of Amistad America,
display the plaque given to Belanger and Amistad
America for Preserving the Legacy of Abraham
we honor those who preserve the legacy of Lincoln, and I am
certain that you will agree the efforts of Amistad
America, through her board of directors, staff, and
volunteers, ensures that the legacy will endure.
we also honor
Professor Michael Burlingame, who is the May
Buckley Sadowski Professor of History Emeritus at
Connecticut College. Another Connecticut gem, Professor
Burlingame has written numerous books - 14 at last count -
about the life of Lincoln. His most recent two-volume work
was described by a review in Publisher's Weekly as
"the most meticulously researched Lincoln biography ever
written". This is but the latest in a long list of
accomplishments for Professor Burlingame. As an undergrad at
Princeton, he studied under David Herbert Donald who, at the
time, was himself among the pre-eminent Lincoln scholars.
During his graduate study he was both a Fulbright scholar
and Woodrow Wilson fellow. After Professor Burlingame
completed his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins, he joined the faculty
of Connecticut College where he was a professor for 33 years
until he retired in 2001. He still holds emeritus rank, and
has remained with us in Connecticut - although, glancing
through his public appearances, one wonders how often he
really is in Connecticut!
Justice Chase T. Rogers presents Dr. Michael Burlingame—the
May Buckley Sadowski, Professor of History Emeritus at
Connecticut College, with a certificate for Preserving the
Legacy of Abraham Lincoln.
recently, in addition to his impressive scholarship,
Professor Burlingame has served as co-chair of the
Connecticut Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.
Established by Governor Rell in 2008, the commission has
organized, supported, and otherwise ensured that Connecticut
would enjoy many varied events in celebration of the
bicentennial. Not surprisingly, Professor Burlingame has
helped to organize and has also participated in some of the
events. I encourage you to visit the web site for the
commission, as it details events yet to come, including
civil war encampments in Torrington and New London, and a
lecture tour series in five cities throughout Connecticut
that retraces Lincoln’s visit here in 1860. It is clear from
his work with the commission that this is a labor of love
from which we all benefit.
so fortunate that Professor Burlingame is able to join us
today and thank you for all you have done - through your
scholarship and teaching and volunteer activities - to
ensure that the legacy will endure.
year's program is special for us, as we honor Connecticut’s
own. Lest you think that we do not look beyond our state for
Lincoln inspiration, however, I would like to introduce the
Honorable Frank J. Williams, retired chief justice of the
Rhode Island Supreme Court. Chief Justice Williams has
authored numerous books on various aspects of President
Lincoln’s life - including, most recently, an edited volume
of essays, the contributors of which include Justice Sandra
Day O’Connor, Governor Mario Cuomo, and Doris Kearns
Goodwin. I am sure you can understand why we are delighted
that Chief Justice Williams is here this morning to deliver
remarks that I am certain will entertain and enlighten us.
Justices (left to right) Peter T. Zarella, Richard N.
Palmer, Christine S. Vertefeuille and C. Ian McLachlan join
Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers (center) on the bench while
listening to retired Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief
Justice Frank J. Williams talk about Lincoln’s Legacy.