Lincoln, courage, and justice for all

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In 1858, Abraham Lincoln spoke to a crowd in Illinois about the Founding Fathers and the enduring power of the Declaration of Independence:

“They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. The erected a beacon to guide their children and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages.

“Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began — so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built.”

How many ways can you find, in that one paragraph, that today’s Republicans have betrayed both Lincoln and the Founders? Now the party of oligarchy, fighting only for the privileges and property of a kingly-lordly-owner caste?

Lincoln does speak of “humane and Christian virtues — ” as do today’s Red Letter Christians, who emphasize the caring, generous words of Jesus, and not the bilious hate-drenched Book of Revelation. Notice that Lincoln gets almost science fictional, in speaking of “farthest posterity” — an implicit utter-rejection of the gleeful apocalypse yearning expressed by today’s End Times junkies, like president-in-waiting Mike Pence.

Read this appraisal of Lincoln’s 1858 speech… in The Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorf.

…though the author seems to be under an impression that the Great Commoner won his Senate race against Stephen Douglas. He did not. Indeed, the 1850s were a hellish era, when aristocratic forces seemed hell-bent on ending our revolution. When plantation lords held the federal government for three decades, sending platoons of irregular southern cavalry rampaging across northern states.

Today, in similar dark times, remember that. Gird yourselves, patriots, to defend this great experiment, as our ancestors did at Cowpens and Valley Forge. At Antietam and Gettysburg. At Normandy and Dachau. At Little Rock and Selma. It will be hard.

See also my earlier posting: 150 years after Lincoln at Gettysburg, can we maintain our resolve? Our union?

The Confederacy has powerful foreign backers, this time, and they have taken Washington. But we are made of no lesser stuff than those forebears? And we can still be a light unto the world….

if we have the “courage to renew the battle” which our fathers began — to struggle to enable the pursuit of happiness and posterity for all.

Author, scientist, public speaker. My books include The Transparent Society, The Postman, Earth, Existence, and Startide Rising.

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