Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Gettysburg Address at 150 Years

Many innocent and well-meaning men and women still quote from it, seeking to stir up patriotic feelings in the hearts of Americans.  But it is an utter abomination.  It marks the end of the old federated republic and the birth of a pagan, divinized nation-god, the final outworking of the Pilgrim/Puritan idea of building a ‘city on a hill’, of preparing the world for the millennial reign of Christ. 

M.E. Bradford explores the religious and political heresy that is the Gettysburg Address in his essay ‘Lincoln, the Declaration, and Secular Puritanism: A Rhetoric for Continuing Revolution’:

Prof Bradford’s wording can be a bit technical at times, but the reader is encouraged to push through any difficult passages.  If one sees it through to the end, he will be rewarded.

For some general remarks on Pres Lincoln himself rather than his Address, Marshall DeRosa’s review of Lincoln Unbound by Rich Lowry (editor of National Review) will serve well.

For example:

The Indians, swindled by bad-faith treaties and the lack of enforcement of the terms thereof, stood in the way economic advancement and the profitable opportunities. Certainly Lincoln would not have been elected captain if he did not share the views of his fellow Illinois militiamen and the ruling classes in Springfield and Washington determined to “exterminate” the Indians. The same could be said about his election in 1860, only the problem then wasn’t Indians but Southerners. Lincoln could relate to the Ohio troops when he encouraged them to destroy the enemy. And like the once menacing Indians, Southerners were obstructing the advancement of Lincolnian policy objectives.

. . .

Lowry would have us believe that Lincoln was “one of the world’s greatest statesmen.”(4) Not so. Lincoln was one of the world’s greatest politicians, seeking elective office for the power requisite to providing the pork demanded by his supporters. Early in his political career, it was the local beneficiaries of public subsidies for internal improvements. As he competed for higher office, the beneficiaries ratcheted upwards from local interests to national.

Yes, Lincoln was a masterful politician and rhetorician. He was capable of disguising his actual political agenda in words that resonated with voters of his time and, more importantly for our purposes, in ours.

. . .

Lincoln should be judged not by selective rhetoric, but by the consequences of his politics. Lowry dismally fails to do so. Today we are living with those consequences. The destruction of the original constitution, incomprehensible public debt, out-of-control public spending, counter-productive foreign adventures (e.g., nation-building), an unaccountable and uncontrollable political class, a shrinking middle class, worsening race relations, dependency on government handouts, the demise of the Judeo-Christian foundations of American civilization, and an encroaching police state are Lincoln’s legacies. This is not meant to imply that Lincoln would approve of these developments; it is meant to imply that he (via his precedent of crushing States’ exercise of their sovereign rights to withdraw from the federal union and, hence, to check federal usurpation of their reserved powers via the possibility of this occurring) was instrumental in making these developments possible if not probable.

Those developments represent Lincoln “Unbound.” It’s time to rid ourselves of the fixation on the mythical Lincoln and start focusing on the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, Luther Martin, George Mason, John Taylor of Caroline, John C. Calhoun, and President Franklin Pierce. The latter will set us on the road back to the original constitutional order; whereas, the mythical Lincoln plays the part of the drum major leading us down the road to serfdom, with Lowry as an enthusiastic band member marching in lockstep to the beat of power, power, power . . . .

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