July 4, 2017

AMERICA IS LINCOLNIAN:

We Need To All See The American Declaration As Abraham Lincoln Did (Joshua Claybourn, 7/04/17, The Federalist)

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously once said, "Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy." Nearly all European nations trace their beginning to a common ethnic kinship or a cultural characteristic, but America was created by exiles united in voluntary assent to shared political beliefs.

That's why British writer G. K. Chesterton visited the United States for the first time and remarked that America was "a nation with the soul of a church," not because of its religiosity, but because of a common creed enshrined in "sacred texts" of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. [...]

Abraham Lincoln believed that the Declaration of Independence did not necessarily proclaim people equal in all respects. Instead, it meant that all people were created with certain equal, inalienable rights, among which are "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." A free society should always strive to achieve these equal rights, even if, as in the case of the Founders, it fell short of that goal in the past.

The Declaration's concept of equality is an aspiration, Lincoln said, "constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere."

That is the genius of Lincoln's argument: that the Constitution is concrete (at least until amended), but the Declaration of Independence is aspirational, and the American project is a constant move toward the aspiration.

Posted by at July 4, 2017 8:42 AM

  

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