Lincoln’s Prescient Relevance

Since our current president is fond of comparing himself to Lincoln — “Lincoln, they used to talk about him almost as bad as they talk about me” — I think it may be worth pointing out to him and his party that Lincoln’s description of the way Democrats talked about Republicans is as relevant, and as accurate, of today’s Democrats as it was of Democrats of the 1860s.

The following passage is from Lincoln’s masterful Cooper Union speech of February 27, 1860. About half-way through, after his powerful chapter and verse argument that the original understanding of the Constitution allowed the federal government to regulate slavery in the territories, he changed direction and said, “And now, if they would listen — as I suppose they will not — I would address a few words to the Southern people.” Imagine, if you will — and you will see that it requires almost no effort — these same words being directed to today’s Democrats, liberals, progressives, mainstream media editors, and all those who live in the hothouse of political orthodoxy that is the American college campus:

I would say to them: You consider yourselves a reasonable and a just people; and I consider that in the general qualities of reason and justice you are not inferior to any other people. Still, when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us as reptiles, or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to “Black Republicans.” In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of “Black Republicanism” as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite – license, so to speak — among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify.

This passage underscores the truth of one of Faulkner’s most famous lines, “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.”


Say What?