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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Letter: Great man has passed on

  • Nelson Mandela's greatness was in his character, perseverance, integrity, patience, tolerance and excellence, not to be diminished or stymied by the little bit more melanin in his skin.
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  • Great man has passed on
    To the editor:
    Nelson Mandela's greatness was in his character, perseverance, integrity, patience, tolerance and excellence, not to be diminished or stymied by the little bit more melanin in his skin.   He transcended the physical boundaries of incarceration imposed for acting against a prejudicial legal system of ruling Caucasians.  The government saw it right to minimize the black person and impose restraints because they feared that black person.  Yet, we have an inkling of such strife in America, the Sedition Act of 1798.  The Federalists who ruled Congress were the elite party more than the popular.  
    They feared that dissent, either written or spoken,  was a threat to their democracy.  So they passed this legislation by straight-Federalist party line vote on 4 July 1798.  This law inculcated that fear of insurrection and sought to punish those who would voice out against the government officials elected to govern.  The first was Mathew Lyon, a sitting Representative of Vermont who wrote a Letter-to-the-Editor.  
    In the letter he claimed the government officials were in a continual quest for power with abounding pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice; words taken to defame President Adams.  Sentenced to four months in jail, $1000 fine, and $60.96 court costs, he also won re-election while in jail, but remained in jail because he could not pay ($1,000 back then!).  His friends' financial support released him, and he became renowned.  The law was so anti-American that the will of the people elected Thomas Jefferson, a Populist president, that caused the eventual end of the Federalist Party.  All convicted under the act were pardoned by President Thomas Jefferson and later given remuneration for fines paid.  Each country has its own way to defeat injustice through the actions of special people, Nelson Mandela, Mathew Lyon or Martin Luther King.  Nelson having lived to reach the ripe age of 95 years is testament to the counter-intuitive good fortune he had.  
    Ironically, Nelson was given back those 27 years, had he not been incarcerated, he would have lived to a respectable 68 years.  Greatness is not how long you live, but how you lived.

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