Letter of the day (July 5): You Don't Say

  • Updated: July 4, 2012 - 4:34 PM

Photo: John Overmyer, NewsArt

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Though the July 2 "You Don't Say" cartoon quotes Stephen Decatur ("our country, right or wrong"), there is more to the story than simply G.K. Chesterton's quip that this is like saying, "My mother, drunk or sober." As noted, Decatur was an American naval officer, Chesterton a Brit. Fifty years after Decatur said it, former Kentucky Gov. and Sen. John Jordan Crittenden had a similar statement in 1848. Pre-dating them all was British poet Charles Churchill, who wrote in 1764: "... be England what She will, With all her faults She is my country still." Poet William Cowper had something similar in 1784. Perhaps the best it was ever phrased was by Carl Schurz in 1899. At the end of a long career as a Civil War general, the first German-born man elected to the U.S. Senate, a journalist and author who had so frequently written about Americanism and patriotism, said this: "Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right."


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