When I was attending grammar school and high school in the 1950s and 1960s, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) and George Washington’s birthday (February 22) were holidays.
Then in 1971, President Richard Nixon went along with a cockamamy proposal that established “Presidents’ Day” on the third Monday in February.
Instead of venerating our two greatest presidents in February, we now get a day off from work to commemorate the office of president and its 46 occupants.
I, for one, do not want to laud every president. I will not honor Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, Bill Clinton or Donald Trump — to name a few.
So, on the February 21 holiday, I will do what I have done most years—go to my office.
But, on February 12, I will honor Abraham Lincoln by reading his greatest speeches defending liberty, equality, the Founding Fathers, and the Declaration of Independence. And so should you.
Historian Richard Brookhiser aptly described Lincoln as the “Founders’ Son,” because they were for him “rhetorical and political touchstones, the basis of his interest in politics, and the lodestars guiding him as he navigated first Illinois politics and their national scene.”
Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was the foundation of Lincoln’s political principles. He called that document an “apple of gold,” the “political religion of the nation,” and quoted time and again these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
For Lincoln, that phrase elevated the human person over the state, and was the preamble of our constitution.
When critics challenged the Founders devotion to equality, Lincoln made it clear that they did not mean all men are equal in size, intellect, abilities or color. He said:
They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all and revered by all. The assertion that ‘all men are created equal’ was of no practical use in effecting our separation from Great Britain; and it was placed in the Declaration, not for that, but for future use. Its authors meant it to be — as, thank God, it is now proving itself — a stumbling-block to those who in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful paths of despotism. They knew the proneness of prosperity to breed tyrants, and they meant when such should reappear in this fair land and commence their vocation, they should find left for them at least one hard nut to crack.
Answering the Nativists who hated and feared new immigrants because they did not have ancestors who fought in the American Revolution, Lincoln said:
“If they look back to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none; they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel they are part of us; but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence, they find that those old men say that ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,’ and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh, of the men who wrote that Declaration; and so they are.”
As for his resolve to preserve the Union and to free the slaves, here’s what he wrote to Congress on December 2, 1862:
Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last, best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.
Defending liberty, Lincoln applied the moral underpinning of all man-made law — the natural law:
Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors. Familiarize yourself with the chains of bondage, and you are preparing your own limbs to wear them.
Lincoln wrote remarkable prose that expressed his principles, revealed the depth of his character, and moved the American people.
On Saturday, February 12, 2022, take a moment to reflect on the greatness of Abraham Lincoln. Read his Gettysburg Address or his Second Inaugural. I’m sure you will agree with Leo Tolstoy’s observation: “Lincoln was what Beethoven was in music, Dante in poetry, Raphael in painting, and Christ in the philosophy of life.”
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.