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CHRIS CARLSON: David Leroy Ensures Idahoans Will Always Remember Lincoln

chris-carlsonBy Chris Carlson Sep 28, 2016

A native of Kellogg, journalist Chris Carlson pens his column from his retirement home near Medimont in Northern Idaho. He is a former teacher and was press secretary to Gov. Cecil Andrus.

As posted in the Idaho State Journal

A few weeks ago, former Idaho Attorney General and Lt. Gov. David Leroy turned 69. He has stayed in good shape (he obviously exercises daily), and except for his all white perfectly coifed hair, one might think he was in his late 40s or early 50s.

With apologies to Irish poet Dylan Thomas, Leroy is not quietly going into the good night, nor with apologies to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, is he like an old soldier fading away.

Still bursting with energy, a ready smile, a sense of humor and plain smarts tell one why he came so close to winning Idaho’s governorship in 1986.

Early in his political career, Leroy idolized former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Len B. Jordan, a principled but reasonable conservative. The Leroys even named their first child, a daughter, after Jordan. In addition, he gave an eloquent and heartfelt eulogy at Jordan’s wife Grace’s funeral services.

Some where along his political path, Leroy became more and more enthralled with the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. He stumbled, metaphorically speaking, across the factoid that Lincoln had signed the legislation creating the Idaho territory in 1863. The more he read, the more enthralled he became. It truly can be said that he is a self-educated genuine Lincoln scholar.

He has traveled the state talking about Lincoln and his impact on Idaho. He easily won a grant from Idaho’s Humanities Council to support some of the expenses for these lectures. The grant, however, does not cover all his expenses so he donates his time as well as his treasure to the cause.

During these past years, he and his wife accumulated a decent collection of Lincoln memorabilia that they have donated to the Idaho Historical Library and a wing of the Idaho archives contains a fine display of much of their donation.

In early September, Leroy announced the formation of the Idaho Lincoln Institute, a nonprofit that will be dedicated to public education, opinion research and presentations taking educated guesses on where Lincoln might be on divisive political issues of our time. Early next year, he intends to announce the formation of an advisory board and to begin fundraising.

With the announcement, Leroy sent out several pages of quotes from Lincoln on issues still under debate today such as amending the Constitution and holding a constitutional convention.

Oddly though, Leroy had no quote touching on one of the major issues still dividing Idahoans today and that is the grants of every other section of public land to the routes railroad companies constructed across the West. The grants were incredibly generous incentives to the timber firms that emerged from these railroad firms — companies such as Weyerhaeuser, Potlatch and Plum Creek can trace their lineage to these grants that in places like Idaho’s upper Lochsa and the upper St. Joe have become management nightmares.

This has led to often controversial land swaps in which the public land agencies such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management try to work out equitable in value land swaps and bloc up holdings for more efficient management.

Leroy does mention Lincoln’s equally important signing of the Homestead Act that especially in southern Idaho spurred economic growth as settlers received 160 acres of land to farm.

Leroy’s selection of quotes does make it clear that Lincoln had no problem with selling public lands to private interests and he clearly believed in public-private partnerships.

Oddly enough, this stance by Lincoln would put him at odds with the Republican nominee for president today, one Donald Trump. When asked about the selling of public lands to states or private interests at a Sept. 22 fundraising event in Boise, Trump’s son Donald Jr. raised more than a few conservative eyebrows by saying that he and his father have “broken away from conservative dogma a little bit” on public lands. “We want to make sure that public lands stay public,” he said. “I’m a big outdoorsman, I’m a big hunter. When I lived out here that’s what I hunted on, public land, and I want to make sure that the next generation has that ability to do that.” He said if federal lands were transferred to state control, they could be sold off when a state has a budget shortfall, “and then all of a sudden, you never have access to those lands ever again.”

At least Trump has one issue correctly sized up. The more things change the more they stay the same.

ROBERT EHLERT: Abe Lincoln Perspectives Expose Shallowness of Present Political Drama

Robert Ehlert, The Idaho Statesman
Robert Ehlert, The Idaho Statesman

by Robert Ehlert – August 26, 2016 6:01 PM

As published in the Idaho Statesman…

This undated illustration depicts President Abraham Lincoln making his Gettysburg Address. AP
This undated illustration depicts President Abraham Lincoln making his Gettysburg Address. AP

The level of demonizing and name-calling by the major party presidential candidates has driven me to seek solace in history.

Early this week, at the urging of David Leroy, a President Abraham Lincoln scholar, I immersed myself in the deep, wide and soothing pools of Lincoln wisdom. Figuring wings of our contemporary political system have surely lost their way, I focused on some of these words — many still debated and some condemned — as my reset button.

Turns out my personal quest may soon have a formal option and location, because Leroy, former Idaho lieutenant governor and attorney general, is working to create the Idaho Lincoln Institute, a nonprofit that would do “opinion research, public education and political presentations on modern issues and Lincoln’s views.” Leroy says to look for more information on this project after Labor Day.

Lincoln, our 16th president, was elected with less than 40 percent of the vote. He was nonetheless a lightning rod who accomplished much from 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He is someone most of the modern GOP claims as one of its own, and a man the leaders of both parties revere. He freed the slaves, yes, but in the process suffered the Civil War, with a bloody toll and scar that prompted his Gettysburg Address:

“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. . .”, Leroy’s website, serves up a number of issues Lincoln considered that we still wrestle with today. There are 17 “guideposts” right now, and Leroy says it will be expanded to 24 soon.

“If the people remain right, your public men can never betray you. Cultivate and protect (the principles of liberty) and your ambitious leaders will be reduced to the position of servants instead of masters.”

“I again submit to your consideration the expediency of establishing a system for the encouragement of immigration. There is still a great deficiency of laborers in many fields of industry, especially in agriculture.”

“I do not propose to destroy or alter or disregard the Constitution. I stand to it, fairly, fully and firmly.”

“Still let us be sanguine of a speedy, final triumph. Let us be quite sober. Let us diligently apply the means, never doubting that a just God, in his own time, will give us the rightful result.”

“In leaving the people’s business in their own hands, we cannot be wrong.”

“Their will, constitutionally expressed, is the ultimate law for all.”

“Education is the most important subject which we as people can be engaged in.” Lincoln, who had less than one year of formal schooling, characterized education as “an object of vital importance.”

In 1862’s Morrill Act, “Lincoln and Congress combined to provide land grants to establish a nationwide network of over 70 state-run colleges and universities. His national encouragement of locally controlled schools and policies succeeded for Lincoln and the United States.”

“As a rule, I think it better that Congress should originate as well as perfect its measures without external bias.”

“I should desire the legislation of the country to rest with Congress, uninfluenced by the Executive in its origin of progress, and undisturbed by the veto, unless in very special and clear cases.”

“Let us readopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it the practices and policy which harmonize with it. Let all Americans — let all lovers of liberty everywhere join in the great and good work. If we do this, we shall not only save the Union, but we shall have so saved it as to make and keep it forever worthy of the saving.” disclaimer – “It is NOT appropriate to take any quotation that Lincoln made during his life and assert that it would necessarily be his position on complex, modern issues which his world never faced. However, certain elements of his simplicity, morality, logic and instinct are timeless. All of his words are useful to supply perspective and prompt dialog on the various topics offered. In this way, we can ‘Look to Lincoln,’ even in this day when his wisdom and wording are remarkably insightful on the issues facing America.”

DAVE LEROY: FBI’s Comey ‘Extremely Careless’ About the Rule of Law

July 11, 2016 - Idaho Statesman
As published in the Idaho Statesman July 11, 2016.

In Idaho “extremely careless” driving can cause you to lose your driver’s license for a year. Extremely careless conduct with a firearm can and frequently does cause a loss of life.

Extreme carelessness in the handling of another’s valuable property or money can earn you 14 years in the penitentiary.

But apparently, the extremely careless handling of national state secrets has won Hillary Clinton a pass from FBI Director James Comey.

Need I say that nothing about the stunning conclusion to this top-secret email investigation represents a normal or defensible law enforcement practice?

Never in the 20,000 criminal cases that I handled as a local and state-level prosecutor did I ever have a police officer usurp my role and tell me in his written report that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring this case.”

Not ever in decades of defending people charged with crimes, have I encountered a law enforcement officer who presumed to intervene for the defense to explain that my client was not sufficiently “sophisticated” to form an intent. Would we retain on the force a Boise city detective, let alone applaud police Chief Bill Bones, if they personally interviewed a high-profile suspect in a sensational felony case without reading that person her rights, taking testimony under oath, recording and transcribing the conversation or all of the above?

Should our U.S. Attorney for Idaho chat with the spouses of investigative targets and not conflict herself off the cases?

As Americans we are asked to give our respect and obeisance to laws and rules, courts and judges because we are assured that we will each be treated fairly and equally under the rule of law.

The concept arises from the earliest days of our country. Thomas Paine, the patriot, exhorted would-be rebels in his 1776 pamphlet “Common Sense” that “in America, law is king!”

Founding Father John Adams insisted upon “a government of laws, not men.”

Will federal agents overlook the transgression the next time one of my clients tells lies under oath? Can you be assured that the destruction of thousands of pages of evidentiary emails is no longer a criminal act? Are the “gross negligence” provisions of the thousands of local, state and federal laws that contain that term now no longer capable of proof?

Sadly, in attempting to save the normalcy of an already highly irregular presidential nominating process, the director of the FBI has rendered a political rather than a legal judgment. In failing to do his job, Comey has been “extremely careless” himself and damaged every citizen’s respect for the rule of law.

David H. Leroy, former Ada County prosecutor and Idaho attorney general, practices law in Boise.

IDAHO STATESMAN: Ada County historical group honors Leroy for work on Abe Lincoln


David H Leroy
David Leroy, then chairman of the Idaho Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, stands in 2009 next to the life-sized statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Idaho State Historical Society Artifact Storage Center. Matt Cilley AP

MERIDIAN PRESS: Making History Award from Ada County Historic Preservation Council

Meridian Press
May 26, 2016
Meridian Press Staff:
“The Ada County Historic Preservation Council presented attorney David H. Leroy with the Making History Award for his efforts to promote and educate future generations on the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln. Leroy led the creation of the Lincoln Legacy Collection and Exhibition at the Idaho Historical Museum. The cornerstone of this exhibit is the original documents, photos, portraits, sculptures, campaign poster and more than 1,000 books collected by Leroy and his wife, Nancy, which chronicle the life of the 16th president and was donated to the state of Idaho research library in 2013.”

Lincoln on Amending the Constitution

“I wish now to submit a few remarks on the general proposition of amending the Constitution. As a general rule, I think we would much better let it alone. No slight occasion should tempt us to touch it. Better not take the first step, which may lead to a habit of altering it. Better, rather, habituate ourselves to think of it as unalterable. It can scarcely be made better than it is. New provisions would introduce new difficulties, and thus create and increase appetite for further change. No, sir; let it stand as it is. New hands have never touched it. The men who made it have done their work, and have passed away. Who shall improve on what they did?”

Speech in Congress, June 20, 1848

“Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained for it is the only safeguard of our liberties. And not to Democrats alone do I make this appeal, but to all who love these great and true principles.”

Speech at Kalamazoo, August 27, 1856


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Lincoln on American Exceptionalism

“It may be affirmed without extravagance that the free institutions we enjoy have developed the powers and improved the condition of our whole people, beyond any example in the world. Of this we now have a striking, and an impressive illustration.”

First Message to Congress, July 4, 1861


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Lincoln on Balancing the Budget

“I would not borrow money. I am against an overwhelming, crushing system. Suppose, that at each session, congress shall first determine how much money can, for that year, be spared for improvements; then apportion that sum to the most important objects.”

Speech in Congress, June 20, 1848

“As an individual who undertakes to live by borrowing soon finds his original means devoured by interest, and next to no one left to borrow from, so it must be with a government.”

Whig Circular, March 4, 1843


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Lincoln on “Career” Politicians

“If ever American society and the United States Government are demoralized and overthrown, it will come from the voracious desire for office, this wriggle to live without toil, work, and labor, from which I am not free myself.”

Attributed, The Life of Abraham Lincoln, by Ward Lamon


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