Obama’s inaugural was forgettable (save for its regrettable partisan edge), let us revisit one far better. Lincoln touches on so many issues and feelings in his first inaugural that we must approach it in parts (and here only a few of the many parts of interest).
The Supreme Court
I do not forget the position assumed by some, that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court; nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case, upon the parties to a suit, as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases by all other departments of the government. And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be over-ruled and never become precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice. At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties, in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.
A nice summation of that body’s proper role especially with the possibility that Obama will get to appoint two justices in his first term. The Left has used the court as a legislature of last resort to force certain positions down the throats of the people for too long. A return to Lincoln’s understanding of their proper place would be welcome.
Executive Power and The People
The Chief Magistrate derives all his authority from the people… His duty is to administer the present government, as it came to his hands, and to transmit it, unimpaired by him, to his successor.
Would that he also said unenhanced… (continuing)
Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope, in the world? In our present differences, is either party without faith of being in the right? If the Almighty Ruler of nations, with his eternal truth and justice, be on your side of the North or on yours of the South, that truth, and that justice, will surely prevail, by the judgement of this great tribunal, the American people.
We can simply substitute the Right and Left of our own time for North and South… (continuing)
By the frame of the government under which we live, this same people have wisely given their public servants but little power for mischief; and have, with equal wisdom, provided for the return of that little to their own hands at very short intervals.
While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years.
Of course, since Lincoln’s time, the politicians have increased their power for mischief significantly and the “Virtue and Vigilance” of the people appears to be in decline, but the sentiment is still valuable… (continuing)
My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well, upon this whole subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time. If there be an object to hurry any of you, in hot haste, to a step which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it… If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied, hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single good reason for precipitate action. Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.
This is all taken from Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, and we haven’t even quoted the oft quoted final paragraph…
I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
I don’t think it’s petty to point out this is way better than anything Obama has ever said, even when he quoted it. You can read the whole thing here.
Lincoln never passed up an opportunity to recognize the humanity and goodness of those who opposed him. He understood that our differences do not arise out of the moral or intellectual failings of our opponents, but from the simple difficulty of the issues we are trying to address.
There is no simple answer to poverty. We emphatically do not know what to do about it or a range of other issues. There is no conspiracy keeping the era of prosperity and pollution free energy from raining down upon us. A Perfect Union is forever beyond our grasp.
Lincoln knew this and articulated it even as he struggled mightily to keep the Union together through its most difficult and bloody time.
Today, we are left to wonder when our opponents will even acknowledge our humanity, let alone our good will. Any disagreement over even trivial legislation is treated as tantamount to Nazism. Opposing the Global Warming farce is tantamount to holocaust denial and should be prosecuted! This is the greatest economic disaster since the Great Depression you insensitive jerk!
Obama’s people made a big show of using Lincoln’s bible for the swearing in (strange that the church-going Obamas have no bible of their own). Would that he used some of Lincoln’s thoughtfulness and magnanimity.