Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Liberator and the Fourth

The folks over at Power Line blog have two great pieces dealing with Abraham Lincoln and Stephan Douglas.

The Eternal Meaning of Independence Day recalls two speeches made by Douglas on July 9, 1858, and Lincoln, the next day, during their famed race for the U.S. Senate.

Douglas downplayed the Declaration of Independence in his support for popular sovereignty and the Dred Scott decision. Lincoln, as he did repeatedly through the campaign, stressed the importance of those important words about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
If [immigrants to America since 1776] look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration [loud and long continued applause], and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world. [Applause.]

The second post, Thinking about the Great Liberator, deals with Lincoln's effort to preserve the Constitution even though he took extreme measures to do so.
The constitutional powers of the commander-in-chief in time of war are critical to the system established by the framers. Lincoln's analysis and exercise of the commander-in-chief's war powers during the Civil War both serve to illuminate those powers. Given the Supreme Court's decision in the Hamdan case this past week, it may be an opportune moment to revisit some history.

Lincoln's primary aim as commander-in-chief was of course the preservation of the Union — the restoration of democracy and the rule of law among the seceding states. He meant to demonstrate that "among free men, there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and that those who take such appeal are sure to lose their case, and pay the cost."

Both articles offer reminders of history's lessons too often ignored.

1 comment:

nextstopchicago said...

Hard not to notice the resonance between the speech and the later "mystic chords of memory" linking "every heart & hearthfire." Must have been phrases that stuck in his mind.