Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Abraham Lincoln's view of the Declaration was not very progressive

In a letter to Henry L. Pierce, Lincoln wrote the following: (Original source)
This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.

All honor to Jefferson--to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.

Lincoln's view is very similar to that of Calvin Coolidge. This is a universally an alien concept to any progressive. Progressives through the years have made it so clear - having even eventually tied their moniker to the concept - in their belief of moving forward and making progress. And this includes the founding documents and principles.

This really starts with Woodrow Wilson, who stated the following:

The Declaration of Independence did not mention the questions of our day. It is of no consequence to us unless we can translate its general terms into examples of the present day and substitute them in some vital way for the examples it itself gives, so concrete, so intimately involved in the circumstances of the day in which it was conceived and written.

He also stated:

Now, the business of every true Jeffersonian is to translate the terms of those abstract portions of the Declaration of Independence into the language and the problems of his own day. If you want to understand the real Declaration, do not repeat the preface.

It's not hard to see what's happening here, in these two speeches. Wilson is discrediting the Declaration and taking the position that it only applied to the time frame in which it was written. What you are seeing is the doctrine of "The Spirit of the Age", which was at the center of Wilson's world view.(This is a phrase which Wilson himself uses, here. As you can see if you read this and the page that follows it, he goes back into the newton/darwin stuff.)

I have gone into full detail about Wilson's belief in the "Living Constitution", which doesn't really need to be re-hashed again here. See here and especially here.

100 years after President Wilson, we are well aware which worldview that progressives at large have adopted as the standard. It wasn't all that long ago that CBS News was helping Professor Seidman get his message out there that we should dump the Constitution. Spirit of the age indeed.

Lincoln: "applicable to all men and all times". Progressives: "Outdated", "of no consequence", old, "do not repeat parts of it", and so forth.


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