Saturday, November 25, 2006

"Our Fathers Who Framed the Government, Under Which we Live"

From an article at Fortune online:

Newt Gingrich baffles the Fortune interviewer:

"I'm going to tell you something, and whether or not it's plausible given the world you come out of is your problem," he tells Fortune. (Smoothingplane-"heh.") "I am not 'running' for president. I am seeking to create a movement to win the future by offering a series of solutions so compelling that if the American people say I have to be president, it will happen." (snip) "Nice people," Gingrich says of his GOP competitors. "But we're not in the same business. They're running for president. I'm running to change the country."

Newt Gingrich speaks about Lincoln, and Harold Holzer's book, Lincoln at Cooper Union:

"I was fascinated by Holzer's portrait of Lincoln spending three months at the Springfield state library, putting together the definitive argument about the Constitution, the Founding Fathers and slavery," Gingrich says.

"He turns it into a 7300-word speech-gives it once in New York, once in Rhode Island, once in Massachusetts, once in New Hampshire. Then he goes home. I was struck by the sheer courage of the self-definitional moment that said, 'We are in real trouble, we need real leadership, and if that's who you think we need, here's my speech'," Gingrich says, suggesting he intends to do the same thing.

"I don't think he's going to be nominated unless he runs a full-blown campaign," says former House majority leader Dick Armey.
But Armey adds: "He's never been a parochial member of Congress. He has big ideas, and has had them for a long time. He's not going to appear to have just discovered them for the purposes of an election..."

The Cooper Union speech is here. It is a partially a history of votes on the question of a dividing line between local and Federal authority as regarding slavery, a rising crescendo of names and votes from 1784 to 1819-20, and relentless Lincoln logic.

( I suggest a crucial issue of our time is a question of morality and values, whether there are only personal motives and values, self defined, or universal values. Quoting Lincoln: "groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong...". On the reverse face of this coinage argument are struck the words, United States of America, and the phrase in Latin, from many, one.) Much Lincoln logic follows.

"You charge that we stir up insurrections among your slaves. We deny it; and what is your proof? Harper's Ferry! John Brown!! John Brown was no Republican; and you have failed to implicate a single Republican in his Harper's Ferry enterprise. If any member of our party is guilty in that matter, you know it or you do not know it. If you do know it, you are inexcusable for not designating the man and proving the fact. If you do not know it, you are inexcusable for asserting it, and especially for persisting in the assertion after you have tried and failed to make the proof. You need to be told that persisting in a charge which one does not know to be true, is simply malicious slander."

"Some of you admit that no Republican designedly aided or encouraged the Harper's Ferry affair, but still insist that our doctrines and declarations necessarily lead to such results. We do not believe it. We know we hold to no doctrine, and make no declaration, which were not held to and made by "our fathers who framed the Government under which we live." You never dealt fairly by us in relation to this affair. When it occurred, some important State elections were near at hand, and you were in evident glee with the belief that, by charging the blame upon us, you could get an advantage of us in those elections. The elections came, and your expectations were not quite fulfilled. Every Republican man knew that, as to himself at least, your charge was a slander, and he was not much inclined by it to cast his vote in your favor. Republican doctrines and declarations are accompanied with a continual protest against any interference whatever with your slaves, or with you about your slaves. Surely, this does not encourage them to revolt. True, we do, in common with "our fathers, who framed the Government under which we live," declare our belief that slavery is wrong; but the slaves do not hear us declare even this. For anything we say or do, the slaves would scarcely know there is a Republican party. I believe they would not, in fact, generally know it but for your misrepresentations of us, in their hearing. In your political contests among yourselves, each faction charges the other with sympathy with Black Republicanism; and then, to give point to the charge, defines Black Republicanism to simply be insurrection, blood and thunder among the slaves."
(How very contemporary this sounds. I hear CNN, and Nancy Pelosi and smell all the press mobs' torches.)

And here, I think, the very crux of Lincoln's argument, true today, true then:

"Holding, as they do, that slavery is morally right, and socially elevating, they cannot cease to demand a full national recognition of it, as a legal right, and a social blessing.
Nor can we justifiably withhold this, on any ground save our conviction that slavery is wrong. If slavery is right, all words, acts, laws, and constitutions against it, are themselves wrong, and should be silenced, and swept away. If it is right, we cannot justly object to its nationality - its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot justly insist upon its extension - its enlargement. All they ask, we could readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask, they could as readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking it right, and our thinking it wrong, is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy. Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition, as being right; but, thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them? Can we cast our votes with their view, and against our own? In view of our moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this? "

And the famous conclusion:

"Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT."

The self-serving, political grass needs the spark of a big idea.

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