The New Birth of Freedom... What is It?... Remembering Lincoln

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sat, 02/13/2010 - 5:56pm.

As he prepared "Notes on Government" for publication in 1791, Congressman James Madison wrote a note to himself. "In proportion as slavery prevails in a State, the Government, however democratic in name, must be aristocratic in fact. The power lies in a part [of the people] instead of the whole, in the hands of property, not of numbers."

He drew a telling conclusion: "The Southern States of America," very much including his native Virginia, "are on the same principle aristocracies."

As an architect of the new Constitution, Madison knew that Article IV, Section 4 says, "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." He knew, therefore, that the American regime contained a self-contradiction.

With most Americans of his generation, he hoped that the eventual removal of slavery would remove this potentially fatal flaw. In fact many states did abolish slavery in that first, founding generation. But his "Southern States" did not. It took civil war and Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation to continue the liberation that the founders had begun.

Lincoln came to the battlefield cemetery at Gettysburg to say in public what Madison in prudence could not say some seventy years before. In declaring their independence, their self-government, in 1776, "our fathers," the founders, "brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Conceived, brought forth: this is the language of fertility, of childbirth. It is a paradoxical conception and childbirth—the work of fathers not of mothers. Somehow the signers of the Declaration of Independence were fathers and mothers, men who conceived and gave birth.

Lincoln spoke this way because he knew his Bible. "Conceived" and "brought forth" are from Numbers 11, the King James Version. An indignant Moses asks his angry God, "Was it I who conceived this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that thou shouldest say to me, "˜Carry them in thy bosom as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swearest unto thy fathers?'" Americans, the new Israelites, were brought forth from Egypt—the British Empire—and from the tyranny of Pharaoh—George III.

Moses or Washington could not bear this burden alone. God tells Moses to gather the elders, and say to the people, "Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat, for you have wept in the ears of the Lord." The Lord's Spirit will now be upon not Moses alone, but upon the elders. Moses wishes that the Spirit of prophecy were upon the whole people (Numbers 11:28).

In Americas, the elders were the founders; Washington had wished that the spirit of self-government, of equal liberty, were upon the whole people.

The Declaration of Independence calls Americans a people, a people who, like the Israelites, existed before and after independence. Lincoln described the bringing forth of "a new nation"; a nation must be an independent, self-governing people. This people was conceived in liberty.

Long before independent independence, before George III and Parliament had designed to reduce them to slavery, Americans had enjoyed civil liberty, self-government. The new nation was "dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal."

In part because Britain had required some colonies to permit slavery and, as recently as 1769, had vetoed a colonial enactment to suppress the slave trade, Americans had not secured the God-endowed unalienable right of equality, either for the slaves or for the free, because the violation of your natural equality potentially threatens my own by admitting the practice of unnatural inequality.

This holds true even if my natural security seems secure, because bad practice can lead to the acquiescence in bad principles. The first independent Americans rejected the principle of slavery even as they tolerated its practice, and for Lincoln as for the founders this was crucial.

But since the founding generation, Americans, like the Israelites, had disregarded the laws of nature and of Nature's God. Lincoln wrote to one of his correspondents, "When we were the political slaves of King George, and wanted to be free, we called the maxim, "˜all men are created equal,' a self-evident truth; but now when we are grown fat, and have lost all dread of being slaves ourselves, we have become so greedy to be masters that we call the same maxim "˜a self-evident lie.'"

The unalienable, natural equality of all men remained as true as ever, but had become self-evident to fewer people, as so many were blinded by passion. The loss of the dread of tyrants leads a selfish people to insufferable pride because that loss bespeaks a loss of the fear of God; Americans were losing their self-mastery in their chase for mastery over others.

The Civil War—the judgment of God upon the new Israelites—"tested whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure." A republic, a nation dedicated to natural equality, requires popular sovereignty to secure it.

Constitutional union founded upon popular self-government cannot survive an appeal from lawful ballots—the election of Lincoln in accordance with the Constitution—to unlawful bullets. As labor is prior to capital, the people are prior to government; only a government that oppresses its people, attacks the people's own laws, can justly be overthrown by force.

The consecration of the cemetery at Gettysburg by the people—the consecrating of themselves for tomorrow, when the war would be over—reaffirmed the people's dedication to "the unfinished work" of the nursing fathers who brought them forth from Egypt but did not live to see them enter the Promised Land. Such dedication meant that the Spirit of the Lord—for the new Israelites, the once-again self-evident truths of the Declaration—will be upon not only the nursing fathers but upon all the people.

The new birth of freedom, witnessed at the Gettysburg house of the dead, meant the emancipation of slaves—one-eighth of the American population—and the full emancipation of freemen, including the former masters, who had contradicted their own right to rule by claiming a universal truth as a particular entitlement by establishing a racial aristocracy over their fellow men.

On that day, Lincoln extended his hand to Madison, redeeming the promise of the old fathers who had not lived to see the fulfillment of the founding they had conceived.

William E Morrisey - February 13, 2010 - source BigGovernment

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sat, 02/13/2010 - 5:56pm.