three words that don’t seem to belong together, in fact one might wonder whether they can co-exist at all. Time will tell, I guess. History has a way of revealing to us things the present succeeds in hiding from our view until it is too late.
As I have been pondering the concept of patriotism these past few days, Edward Everett Hale’s book, “The Man Without a Country” comes to mind. Published in 1863, it is the story of a man who learned to love his country, although it was no longer his. In that same year, a speech was given, by President Abraham Lincoln on a battlefield in Pennsylvania. He delivered this two minute speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19th, 1863 at a ceremony honoring fallen soldiers of the Civil War while dedicating the land as a cemetery for those soldiers.
Times were tough, the nation was in crisis and Lincoln was hated by everyone, his own party and the opposing one as well. His speech, which we now call “The Gettysburg Address”, was not well received. By using the words, “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” Lincoln made the Civil War not only about preserving the Union but about equal human rights for all. This did not set well with those who wanted slavery to continue.
In fact, in September of 1862, when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the Chicago Times printed, “a monstrous usurpation, a criminal wrong, and an act of national suicide.” Lincoln should have been used to this type of personal attack by this time, as he had been criticized constantly from all sides ever since his election to office.
The Salem Advocate, a paper from his own home state of Illinois printed these words, “His speeches have demonstrated the fact that . . . he is no more capable of becoming a statesman, nay, even a moderate one, than the braying ass can become a noble lion. . . . His weak, wishy-washy, namby-pamby, efforts, imbecile in matter, disgusting in manner, have made us the laughing stock of the whole world. The European powers will despise us because we have no better material out of which to make a president.”
Clearly, political hate speech is not a phenomenon new to our time. Even without the aide of TV, Twitter etc., political opponents could successfully assassinate the character of anyone with whom they disagreed. Edward Everett, a famous orator of Lincoln’s day wrote in his diary of Lincoln, “He is evidently a person of very inferior cast of character, wholly unequal to the crisis.” And Congressman Charles Francis Adams wrote this about Lincoln, “His speeches have fallen like a wet blanket here. They put to flight all notions of greatness.”
Time would tell. Time would prove how wrong they both were. But at that moment Time remained silent. Why was Lincoln so unpopular? An article, “Evidence for The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln” states, “The insults heaped on Lincoln after his arrival in Washington were not the result of anything he himself had done or left undone. He was a man without a history, a man almost no one knew. Because he was a blank slate, Americans, at the climax of a national crisis thirty years in coming, projected onto him everything they saw wrong with the country.”
Today Lincoln is known as “the Great Emancipator” and history honors his legacy. Time has finally found her voice. Well, her past voice anyway. At present she seems eerily silent once again as wars of words rage all around our country. Do we once again have to wonder whether our personal freedoms guaranteed in The Declaration of Independence will remain intact?
Interestingly, Hale, author of the book “The Man without a Country” became a Senate chaplain when he retired from the ministry. He was chaplain of the Senate from 1903 until his death in 1909. When asked if he prayed for the senators, Hale replied, “No, I look at the senators and pray for the country.” (some things never change)
What would Hale’s prayer for our country be today? Perhaps “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Gettysburg Address, 1863)
or perhaps Hale would have prayed for us to truly be “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” (the pledge of allegiance)
united, with freedom and fair treatment for everyone? – does such a place exist? sounds like a dream to me – a dream worth working for – a dream worth fighting for – a dream worth dying for (many have done just that) – a dream worth preserving – the American dream . . .
“if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” (Daniel 2:20-21)
sincerely, Grace Day