Lincoln, The Declaration, And The Tenant
Last updated 8/17/2020 at 1:55pm
Historian Ted Widmer’s new book on Abraham Lincoln’s 13-day trip in February, 1861, across seven states (“Lincoln On The Verge,”) to Washington, D.C., for his inauguration raises points worthy of consideration as our country approaches another presidential election as crucial as Lincoln’s in 1860.
Lincoln spoke to large and enthusiastic crowds all along his railroad route. A capstone came on Feb. 22, Washington’s Birthday, in Philadelphia. There, on a platform erected in front of Independence Hall allowing access to the masses who wanted to hear him, he used a Biblical reference to “apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11) to describe what the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence says about equality and slavery:
“That apple of gold is the principle of ‘Liberty to all’— the principle that clears the path for all – gives hope to all — and by consequence, enterprise and industry to all.” Widmer summarizes that a system like slavery exalts the rich over the poor, creates a permanent racial caste system, and makes a mockery of the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness declared in July 1776 to be the inalienable creator-given rights of all people. He goes on to recall Lincoln’s prediction in an 1858 debate with Stephen Douglas about “the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants.”
Lincoln had said then, “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 the 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.”
The current tenant of the White House and his enabling sycophants want four more years — preferably with a continuing nepotistic reign of ego, pride, and greed — from the 2020 presidential election. Would Lincoln, with whom that tenant sometimes vaguely compares himself (“He did good, although it’s always questionable.” Fox News interview, June 12, 2020) agree? Or might Lincoln see the tenant as the tyrant bred of prosperity of whom he warned?
I urge all to vote with that in mind on Nov. 3.