(’76 Editor) This is Lincoln’s birthday. It used to be a holiday in this country; no more. Yet some of us still revere Abraham Lincoln as the greatest American who ever lived. He is a hero to me because of the moral penetration of his mind, his greatness of soul, his political subtlety and discernment, his determined rise from obscurity to eminence, and the genius of his statesmanship in not only freeing the slaves while saving the Union, but helping the nation to a second birth of “more perfect Union” by so doing.
Here is what Lincoln said at Independence Hall on George Washington’s birthday, February 22, 1861, as he journeyed toward the nation’s capital to be inaugurated as President with secession already sundering the Union and civil war impending. If our country is less free and less confident of our destiny today, it is because the truths of the Declaration of Independence have less of a grip on us than they did on Americans in Washington’s time and Lincoln’s time. You and I should ask ourselves every day what we can do to turn that situation around – or we will lose our country.
I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here and adopted that Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army, who achieved that Independence.
I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the colonies from the mother land; but something in that Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance. This is the sentiment embodied in that Declaration of Independence.
Now, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world if I can help to save it. But, if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it.