by Jared Taylor
2013 is the Sesquicentennial anniversary of some amazing parts of American History. First, January of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln read the Emancipation Proclamation. Second, in July of 1863, the Union and Confederate armies clashed in a small town known as Gettysburg, PA. Third, a few months later, President Lincoln was invited, as an afterthought, to give a speech at the Gettysburg battlefield.
As many of you know, the roots of Memorial Day go back to the Civil War time when families would decorate the graves of the fallen. As such, it was called Decoration Day.
But what was the Civil War really about? For the North the issue was slavery. For the South it was States’ Rights. The Southern states believed the Constitution prohibited the Federal Government from meddling with the practice of slavery. Senator John Calhoun and others argued that if a State desired to enslave another man through law, it was their Constitutional right.
Fortunately, America was blessed with perhaps our greatest president during the Civil War: Abraham Lincoln. During Lincoln’s formative years, he was a diligent student of three major works: 1) the Holy Bible, 2) Shakespeare, and 3) the Founding Fathers.
So he began his great memorial speech at Gettysburg by stating, “Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Do you hear the Declaration of Independence in these words?
Lincoln continued, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.”
Then Lincoln expands his thoughts, “But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”
Then he concluded, “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
For Lincoln and his day, the unfinished work was to win the Civil War and free the slaves. However, Lincoln had a bigger vision. A vision where not just the God-given rights of blacks were to be restored, but where all men and women could be treated equally and that government would remember its limited role of securing the rights and liberty for each citizen.
In our day, government is largely a jobs program for bureaucrats and a stimulus program for the power brokers. Very few so-called civil servants remember to serve the citizens. We have a government of the government, by the special interests, and for the elites. The God-given rights of citizens are only given passing lip service during patriotic events.
We live in a day where our nation is split along similar lines as in Lincoln’s day. Some groups believe they are smarter and better than others. Therefore, they argue, for the good of society they must limit other’s right to religious liberty, freedom of speech, and build up a Utopian ideal in their image. Other groups are flattered into believing that they have a right to another man’s property. Still more believe no morality should exist in society and God should be removed altogether. Even though the issues may be different, the basic thrust is the same: all men are not created equal and therefore don’t have equal rights.
My hope and prayer for this nation is that we will remember both the true challenge and the larger meaning of the Gettysburg Address.
The challenge is that great sacrifice is always asked of those who will be free men. Freedom has never been free. We must always be engaged in the cause of liberty to truly honor those who died to preserve our liberty. If we don’t, we’ll return to the bondage of Israel or the African slaves.
The meaning is that God desires us to have a birthright of freedom and all men are created equal. To achieve this, our government must be of the people, by the people, and for the people. America is truly the last great hope of the world. May we each do our part to preserve this birthright of freedom.