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Letter to the Editor: End-of-year reflections from Eric Jacobson

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To the Editor, 

If the last four years have taught me anything, it is that we can all do better. We can put aside partisan, political, personal and petty differences and simply strive to do what is right, what is decent and what is just. 

In four years, I have personally witnessed the best and worst of people. I have been astounded, frustrated and moved. But more than anything, I have been inspired. I have been inspired to see that most people gravitate toward what is good, and that the younger generations will not throw away opportunities any more than previous ones did. I can also see that our American experiment in government continues to function and serve the common good, even if demagogues try to tell us and convince us otherwise. 

When my wife and I and our two daughters moved to this area over 15 years ago, it was to look for something different and something better. We found it. Middle Tennessee is a wonderful place. For myself, working in the field of history, on the battlefields in Spring Hill and Franklin, at Carter House, at Carnton and now Rippavilla, toiling to help reclaim nearly 300 acres of battlefield, and managing the ebb and flow of over 100,000 visitors annually, are things both challenging and rewarding. 

Twelve years ago, the Battle of Franklin Trust was created. I am proud to have been part of it since the day it was created. 

Four years ago, in the aftermath of events at Charlottesville, Virginia, a handful of us launched a project that came to be known as the Fuller Story. The interpretive markers in the public square and a bronze statue in front of the historic courthouse that depicts a man in a U.S. Army uniform — a Black man who fought for his freedom, for the preservation of the United States and for countless people not yet born — collectively tell searingly poignant chapters of our shared history that were, for too long, covered up, ignored or unknown. 

Two years ago, a global pandemic began to threaten us in a way that only the oldest generations could honestly remember. Death and inconvenience became part of day-to-day life. 

One year ago, we passed through yet another presidential election.  

All are now part of history. Our shared American history. A history that is littered with good people, vibrant diversity, incredible innovation, chaotic events, deceptive actions and blunt force. 

Nearly 167 years ago, a relatively unknown lawyer gave a speech in Peoria, Illinois, that began to shake the political landscape. In it, he said: 

“What I do say is, that no man is good enough to govern another man, without that other’s consent. I say this is the leading principle — the sheet anchor of American republicanism. Our Declaration of Independence says, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’ 

“I have quoted so much at this time merely to show that according to our ancient faith, the just powers of governments are derived from the consent of the governed. Now the relation of masters and slaves is, pro tanto, a total violation of this principle. The master not only governs the slave without his consent; but he governs him by a set of rules altogether different from those which he prescribes for himself. Allow all the governed an equal voice in the government, and that, and that only, is self-government.” 

Nearly 160 years ago, we nearly destroyed ourselves and our American experiment at the hands of civil war. The same lawyer who spoke in Peoria years earlier became one of about 700,000 who died. But the violence had a purpose — 4 million people were free. The path we patterned and traveled in the decades that followed was often beset with problems. 

We are now a full generation into the 21st century. We stand on the cusp of 2022. So much has changed, and yet so much remains like a lighthouse on a rocky shore. 

I want to thank everyone who has supported the Battle of Franklin Trust in our efforts over the past decade. I want to thank the city of Franklin for its steadfast and ongoing leadership and support. I want to thank the city of Spring Hill for believing that the Battle of Franklin Trust was the right choice to manage Rippavilla. I want to thank the American Battlefield Trust for its unwavering support of everything we have done to reclaim portions of two battlefields that virtually everyone believed were lost. I want to thank the board of the Battle of Franklin Trust, both past and present. I also want to thank my staff. There is no group of people more dedicated to the truth, no matter how difficult that truth might be. 

I want to thank the Middle Tennessee community for believing that our history is important, that all parts of that history should be embraced and that some are open to honest and sincere, and necessary, debate. 

Nearly 250 years ago, we embarked on the most audacious experiment the world has ever known. Ever. It is our job to embrace the self-evident truth of equality given to us by a Creator, to hold on to it and to never let it go. 

We are not more divided than ever. Do not believe it.  

Come and visit us at Carter House, at Carnton and at Rippavilla. Learn about how the Civil War redefined America. 

Eric A. Jacobson 

Chief Executive Officer 

The Battle of Franklin Trust

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