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What is America? Poli 110J 4.1 Reverence for the Laws.

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Presentation on theme: "What is America? Poli 110J 4.1 Reverence for the Laws."— Presentation transcript:

1 What is America? Poli 110J 4.1 Reverence for the Laws

2 Main Themes Equality the defining characteristic of American thought National identity prioritized over state identity US points beyond itself to something higher The law and American political institutions make political freedom and equality possible

3 Lyceum Address, 1838 The Revolution is over Responsibility to the political community existing across time (forward and backward) Transcendental ideals of American govt Order, discipline, and self-restraint The existential threat of chaos to the Republic – Threat by powers above and below

4 Lyceum Address The Revolution is over – We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of [the institutions of republican government]---they are a legacy bequeathed us, by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed race of ancestors.

5 Lyceum Address 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. – It is the task of the post-revolutionary generations to preserve and transmit the institutions of American govt to the future

6 Lyceum Address There was glory in the Revolution, but there is none in obedience to the laws. The anarchic threat of great men: – Many great and good men sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake, may ever be found, whose ambition would aspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress, a gubernatorial or a presidential chair; but such belong not to the family of the lion, or the tribe of the eagle

7 Lyceum Address The threat from those who deny their equality to their fellow citizens A belief in his own greatness leads the great man to think of himself as above the law – Seeking glory, although he would as willingly, perhaps more so, acquire it by doing good as harm; yet, that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.

8 Lyceum Address Threats also from the people: if the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and property, are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections from the Government is the natural consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come.

9 Lyceum Address The threat of anarchy presented by mob justice: – The bad will be emboldened by the failure of law – The good will be demoralized – The ideological bond between the people and their government will suffer

10 Lyceum Address The institutions of American government were once bolstered by revolutionary fervor – But this state of feeling must fade, is fading, has faded, with the circumstances that produced it.

11 Lyceum Address This is the work of time, the Revolutionaries are dying out: – They were the pillars of the temple of liberty; and now, that they have crumbled away, that temple must fall, unless we, their descendants, supply their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason. Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Note pervasive imagery of religion

12 Lyceum Address How to defend American government? – 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.

13 Lyceum Address Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence. Let those [materials] be moulded into general intelligence, [sound] morality and, in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws – Restraint, responsibility are political values, they preserve the state Democracy is a moral issue: to preserve it the people must be morally democratic

14 Lyceum Address 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 – As the Declaration was to the Revolution, the Constitution must be to the post-revolutionary era

15 Lyceum Address Even (especially?) bad laws: – although bad laws, if they exist, should be repealed as soon as possible, still while they continue in force, for the sake of example, they should be religiously observed.

16 Lyceum Address Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest, as the rock of its basis; and as truly as has been said of the only greater institution, ``the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. – Same quote as OSullivan, but different emphasis Contingent, if then America is second to the church

17 Peoria, 1854 Pronounced emphasis on equality as ultimate good of American politics Power must be used only as constrained by the values and beliefs appropriate to Americans Politics with the force of religion – Not just a matter of good and bad, but of ultimate good and evil

18 Peoria, 1854 Kansas-Nebraska act tempts Americans to war with the very fundamental principles of civil libertycriticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest – Declaration the heart of American politics – American democracy does not have self-interest at its basis Such claims are assaults upon all we have ever really held sacred.

19 Peoria Founders put slavery on path to extinction – Did they? – Control of the image of the past, delegitimize one possible future while authorizing another Even slaveholders tacitly acknowledge the humanity of blacks – Why are freemen not rounded up like stray cattle? – Why is the slavetrader despised?

20 Peoria If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that all men are created equal. – Ancient? Only 78 years old – Ancient as in at the beginning – No man is good enough to govern another man, without that mans consent.

21 Peoria Caught between two conflicting goods: equality and Union – Return to Missouri compromise, restore national brotherhood – I would consent to any great evil, to avoid a greater one.

22 Peoria Self-interest/the marketplace vs. equality/the Republic Americans have been giving up the old for the new faith… These principles cannot stand together. They are as opposite as God and Mammon, and whoever holds to one, must despise the other… Let no one be deceived. The spirit of seventy-six and the spirit of Nebraska are utter antagonisms; and the former is being rapidly displaced by the latter.

23 Peoria Lincoln is looking to attack the moral legitimacy of slavery Mammon: demonic figure representing the love of wealth – Name means money – Matthew 6:24 – No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

24 Peoria Lincoln looks to ground loyalty to his vision of the state in the force of religion, tradition Commonality of biblical language Two visions of the American future, only one legitimate – Faithful to Ancient Faith – Corrupt, even heretical

25 Peoria Ancient Faith – Equality This is what makes America good, that it points beyond itself toward this ideal – Loyalty to nation – Continuity with the past Declaration, the community of belief At least as Lincoln describes it Revising the past to delegitimize one future and authorize another

26 Peoria Worship of Mammon – Self-interest Points to nothing beyond the self, posits the self as the final value – Radical break with past Abandons the beliefs in the Declaration in favor of new ones. Sen. John Petitt: Declarations claim of equality a self- evident lie – Then he does not hold these truths to be self-evident But is it really a break? – Loyal only to self

27 Peoria The soul of the nation is in danger of fatal corruption Our republican robe is soiled, and trailed in the dust. Let us repurify it. Let us turn and wash it white, in the spirit, if not the blood, of the Revolution.

28 Peoria The proper use of power in America has a spiritual and moral component – Kansas-Nebraska, and by implication slavery, is a sin – Cleansing by Christian mechanism of turning, repentance – But not Christian content: it is the spirit of the Revolution in the office of the redeemer. Purification by return not to religious, but political truths

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