Lincoln in 1838 foresaw America in 2020

August 19, 2020

Dusting off this old blog, because I was listening to the Power Line podcast, and something guest Charles Lipson said moved me to reread Lincoln’s Lyceum speech of 1838, when he was only 28 years old, and I was struck by this passage in particular. If you’ll bear with the more florid rhetoric of the time, I think you’ll agree that Abraham Lincoln at even a young age appreciated the danger we now face.

“But all this even, is not the full extent of the evil.–By such examples, by instances of the perpetrators of such acts going unpunished, the lawless in spirit, are encouraged to become lawless in practice; and having been used to no restraint, but dread of punishment, they thus become, absolutely unrestrained.–Having ever regarded Government as their deadliest bane, they make a jubilee of the suspension of its operations; and pray for nothing so much, as its total annihilation. While, on the other hand, good men, men who love tranquility, who desire to abide by the laws, and enjoy their benefits, who would gladly spill their blood in the defense of their country; seeing their property destroyed; their families insulted, and their lives endangered; their persons injured; and seeing nothing in prospect that forebodes a change for the better; become tired of, and disgusted with, a Government that offers them no protection; and are not much averse to a change in which they imagine they have nothing to lose. Thus, then, by the operation of this mobocractic spirit, which all must admit, is now abroad in the land, the strongest bulwark of any Government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed–I mean the attachment of the People. Whenever this effect shall be produced among us; whenever the vicious portion of population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands, and burn churches, ravage and rob provision-stores, throw printing presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure, and with impunity; depend on it, this Government cannot last. By such things, the feelings of the best citizens will become more or less alienated from it; and thus it will be left without friends, or with too few, and those few too weak, to make their friendship effectual. At such a time and under such circumstances, men of sufficient talent and ambition will not be wanting to seize the opportunity, strike the blow, and overturn that fair fabric, which for the last half century, has been the fondest hope, of the lovers of freedom, throughout the world.

I know the American People are much attached to their Government;–I know they would suffer much for its sake;–I know they would endure evils long and patiently, before they would ever think of exchanging it for another. Yet, notwithstanding all this, if the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and property, are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections from the Government is the natural consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come.”

Now look at the news and at the near-total collapse of law and order in New York or Portland or Seattle or Chicago or… on and on. Look at the elected officials, supine before mobs, when not collaborating with them out of fear or even sympathy. The police rendered craven by a lack of support, and attempts to enforce the law denounced as tyranny. People hounded in their own homes, realizing no authority was there to protect them or even hold the mob in check through fear of punishment.

I’ve joked in the past that Lincoln was an “American Jesus,” dying for our sins. But reading this speech and looking at us today… He may well have been a prophet.


The anniversary of the Gettysburg Address

November 19, 2011

Exactly 149 years ago today, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in a speech lasting a little over two minutes:

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. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

No mention of himself, no teleprompter needed.

In my opinion, this is the single greatest speech in American history, surpassing Washington’s Farewell Address, Lincoln’s own second inaugural speech, and FDR’s speech to Congress asking for a declaration of war against Japan. Perhaps President Reagan’s address at Normandy on the D-Day anniversary in 1984 comes closest in oratorical power.

Regardless, in those few words captured the reason why we came into being and why we continue to exist, what makes us, in a word many use but few really understand, “exceptional.” In fact, it wouldn’t be out of line to say this was the moment of our second Founding.

PS: Did you know President Lincoln wasn’t even the main speaker that day? The “main event” was an orator named Edward Everett, who spoke for over two hours. Thank Heaven we weren’t required to memorize that in school.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

The Whiner in Chief compares himself to a real President

August 16, 2011

Great Seal Seal of the Pouter in Chief

I tell ya, this guy’s penchant for comparing himself to genuinely strong presidents who faced serious crises and who –unlike Obama– didn’t constantly whine about how tough they had it is really starting to annoy me. Two articles from Byron York; in the first, Obama tries to make people believe the buck stops everywhere but with him:

“We had reversed the recession, avoided a depression, gotten the economy moving again,” Obama told a crowd in Decorah, Iowa.  “But over the last six months we’ve had a run of bad luck.”  Obama listed three events overseas — the Arab Spring uprisings, the tsunami in Japan, and the European debt crises — which set the economy back.

“All those things have been headwinds for our economy,” Obama said.  “Now, those are things that we can’t completely control.  The question is, how do we manage these challenging times and do the right things when it comes to those things that we can control?”

“The problem,” Obama continued, “is that we’ve got the kind of partisan brinksmanship that is willing to put party ahead of country, that is more interested in seeing their political opponents lose than seeing the country win.  Nowhere was that more evident than in this recent debt ceiling debacle.”

I can almost hear the chorus line from CCR’s “Fortunate Son” — It ain’t me!

Sorry, sir. What’s really holding this economy down are your outdated, statist, Keynesian economic dogmas.

Oh, but just to remind you that he’s up there with the great presidents of our history, he tells us that the slings and arrows of outrageous critics he suffers are like those of a president who fought a civil war:

Obama told the woman that “democracy is always a messy business in a big country like this.”  In addition, he said, “We kind of romanticize sometimes what democracy used to be like.”

“When you listen to what the Federalists said about the Anti-Federalists, and the names that Jefferson called Hamilton and back and forth — I mean those guys were tough,” Obama said.  “Lincoln — they used to talk about him almost as bad as they talk about me.  So democracy has never been for the faint of heart.”

Pardon me while I hurl. Don’t even go there, chump. Yeah, you walked into a bad situation and your predecessor left you a mess — as if no other president has ever faced that situation. But the things you needed to do (and still need to do) to right the situation are straightforward and time-tested; you just don’t want to do them because they go against everything you believe and were taught, empirical evidence be damned.

Honestly, comparing yourself to Lincoln? Seriously? The man took over a nation literally tearing itself apart; he not only had to conquer the breakaway portion, but he had to keep the remainder of the Union intact while preventing foreign intervention.

And you think you’ve got it rough? What they said about him is “almost as bad” as what is said about you? Buster, you haven’t got it one-tenth as bad as Lincoln had it.

Narcissism and an inability to take responsibility. What a combination.