Lincolnnotes - Abraham Lincoln, Selected Speeches Address...

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Abraham Lincoln, Selected Speeches ‘Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois’ This is Lincoln’s first public speech of note. It is significant that his theme is the, “perpetuation of our political institutions.” Early in his career, Lincoln held that the wisdom of the Founding Fathers was such that the duty of citizens was to maintain their design. As Lincoln argues, “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. Their's 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; the latter, undecayed by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation, to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. 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.” Note that he frames the American situation as singularly blessed. Note that Lincoln echoes Madison in arguing that the greatest threat to the survival of the United States is from internal faction and discord. Lincoln holds that the tendency to disregard law and fall under the sway of passion has increased (this is due to the political controversies and growing social divides of the Antebellum Era). Lincoln argues this issue is, “common to the whole country,” and not just the South. Lincoln is in growing fear of mob rule – note that despite the heavily racial overtones of this discussion, Lincoln avoids the topic of slavery in general. The growing violence and mob mentality in society is a problem to the preservation of our [Lockean] institutions because, “When men take it in their heads to day, to hang gamblers, or burn murderers, they should recollect, that, in the confusion usually attending such transactions, they will be as likely to hang or burn some one who is neither a gambler nor a murderer as one who is; and that, acting upon the example they set, the mob of to-morrow, may, and probably will, hang or burn some of them by the very same mistake. And not only so; the innocent, those who have ever set their faces against violations of law in every shape, alike with the guilty, fall victims to the ravages of mob law; and thus it goes on, step by step, till all the walls erected for the defense of the persons and property of individuals, are trodden down, and disregarded.” Lincoln almost seems to fear a backslide into what Locke might call a state of war. He argues this trend will see the people increasingly alienated from their government. This is the key passage of the text: “The question recurs, "how shall we fortify
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This note was uploaded on 02/25/2012 for the course 790 376 taught by Professor Murphy during the Spring '09 term at Rutgers.

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Lincolnnotes - Abraham Lincoln, Selected Speeches Address...

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