Monday, April 20, 2015

So I picked up this book............................

..............titled, On Lincoln, at the Licking County Library the other day.  It is a collection of essays about Lincoln.  The list of books waiting to be read is daunting, but a collection of essays ... well, one can usually find time just to take a brief dip.  And so, a brief dip was taken.  Allow me to share part of it with you:

On January 27, 1838, Abraham Lincoln delivered an address to the Young Men's Lyceum at Springfield, Illinois, entitled "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions."  Less than a year earlier, on March 4, 1837, President Martin Van Buren dealt with the same matter in his Inaugural Address.  Both expressed concerns widely shared at the time and the ambiguous nature of these concerns:  they proudly claimed success for the "republican experiment" begun by the fathers, yet warned that it might fail if the present age proved false.  "It impresses on my mind a firm belief," the president observed, "that the perpetuation of our institutions depends upon ourselves."  To the sons had fallen the solemn duty of preserving the work of the founding fathers.
      While both expressed a common concern with preserving the republic, Lincoln and Van Buren differed in their assessment of the specific dangers facing it.  One was the widespread incidence of mob action.  Deploring "the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country,"  Lincoln feared the long-run effect of the "mobocratic spirit" would be to erode "the attachment of the People" and destroy the basis of self government.  "Let reverence for the laws," he urged, "become the political religion of the nation."  Van Buren likewise saw how the "ardor of public sentiment" often outran "the regular progress of the judicial tribunals."   By wounding "the majesty of the law," moreover, mob action might eventually provide the occasion "for abridging the liberties of the people."  On balance, however, Van Buren was far less concerned about mob violence than Lincoln.  Reaffirming at this point a Jeffersonian trust in the "generous patriotism" and "sound common sense" of the people, he believed they would soon return to the "landmarks of social order."    On two other dangers to the republic the differences were much clearer and sharper.  Lincoln devoted only two sentences to the rising voice of abolitionist agitation and expressed no personal opinion on the matter.  In a lengthy passage, Van Buren condemned abolitionism as the greatest threat to the republic.  Regarding the menace of Caesarism Van Buren made no explicit references at all, whereas Lincoln placed central emphasis on it in his address.

-the opening two paragraphs from Major L. Wilson's essay, "Lincoln and Van Buren in the Steps of the Fathers:  Another Look at the Lyceum Address"

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