Wednesday, July 1, 2009

This is long but interesting to me

An address by Abraham Lincoln called The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions
January 27, 1838

"In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we the American People, find our account running, under date of the 19th century of the Christian era. We find ourselves in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them--they are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors. Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves,us, of this goodly land; and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys, a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; 'tis ours only, to transmit these, the former unprofaned by the foot of an invader...This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.

How then shall we perform it? At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up among us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher...I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now something of ill-omen amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgments of Courts, and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice . This disposition is awfully fearful in any community; and that it now exists in ours, though grating to our feelings to admit, it would be a violation of the truth, and an insult to our intelligence, to deny....

I know the American People are much attached to their Government;--I know they would suffer much for it's sake;--I know they would endure evils long and patiently, before they would ever think of exchanging it for another. Yet, notwithstanding all this, if the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and their property, are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections of the Government is the natural consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come. Here then is one point at which danger may be expected.

The question recurs 'how shall we fortify against it?' The answer is simple. Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor;--let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the character of his own, and his children's liberty. Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap--let it be taught in schools, in seminaries and in colleges;--let it be written in primers, spelling books, and in almanacs;--let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom...."