Lincoln as a social prophet; what Place Violence in a Democracy?
I am on. The following program is the first in a series of readings on Abraham Lincoln entitled Lincoln a social prophet. The readings and commemoration of the Illinois sesquicentennial are done by Marvin saying our speech instructor at Northern Illinois University. Today's reading place violence and a democracy minister saying our polling and Earl Myers in their book The living link and give a helpful introduction to the Lincoln speech will cover today. Most of my initial comments are quotes from them. Lincoln's early years in Springfield Illinois are
eight hundred thirty seven through eight hundred forty two by the last few months in 1837 he already felt at home in Springfield. But like most thoughtful citizens of his day he was concerned with a rising wave of mob violence in Mississippi outraged citizens had lynched a number of gamblers then had attacked negroes suspected of planning a slave insurrection in St. Louis a mob had killed a harmless mulatto on mere suspicion of wrongdoing. In Alton Illinois even nearer home pro-slavery fanatics had murdered Elijah P. Lovejoy to suppress the abolitionist newspaper which he persisted in publishing asked to speak before the young man's Lyceum Lincoln took the platform to voice a warning. Lincoln belabored the St. Louis and Mississippi outrages out of deference to the prejudices of his fellow citizens. He made only one veiled allusion to the Lovejoy murder even though that had caused far more consternation throughout the country
and far better cleavage in Illinois than the other acts of lawlessness which he mentioned. His basic theme is what Place Violence lawless violence in our democracy. More traditionally the speech is called the perpetuation of our political institutions and was delivered January 27 1830 8. Here now Lincoln's message. As a subject for the remarks of the evening the perpetuation of our political institutions is selected in the great journal of things happening under the sun. We the American people finder account running under date of the 19th century of the Christian era. We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth as regards extent of territory fertility of soil and celebrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty than any of which the history of former times tells
us. We when mounting the stage of existence found ourselves a legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them. They are legacy bequeath us by our once hearty brave and patriotic but Nala mounted and departed race of ancestors. There is was the task and only they performed it to possess themselves and through themselves. Us of this goodly land and to our brewer upon its hills in its valleys a political edifice of liberty and equal rights is ours only to transmit these the former on profane by the foot of an invader. The latter on decayed by the lapse of time and torn by usurpation to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know this task gratitude to our father's justice to ourselves. Duty to posterity and love for our species in general all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.
How then shall we perform it. At what point shall we expect the approach of danger. By what means shall we fortify against it. Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow. Never. All the armies of Europe Asia and Africa combined with all the treasure of the earth our own excepted and their military chest with a Bonaparte for a commander could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected. I answer if it ever reaches it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we must live through all time or die by suicide. I hope I am not. I am over wary but if I am not there is even now something of ill
omen amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country. The growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions in lieu of the sober judgment of courts and the worse than savage mobs for the executive ministers of justice. This disposition is awfully fearful in any community. That it knowledge exists in ours though grating to our feelings to admit it would be a violation of truth and an insult to our intelligence to deny him. Accounts of outrages committed by mobs formed the every day news of the time they have pervaded the country from New England to due to Louisiana their needs are peculiar to the eternal snows of the former or the burning sun of the latter. They are not the creature of climate. Neither are they confined to the slave holding more than one slave holding states like they spring up among the pleasure hunting masters of Southern slaves and the order loving citizens of the land of
steady habits. Whatever then their cause may be it is common to the whole country. It would be tedious as well as useless to recount the horrors of all of them those happening in the state of Mississippi and at St. Louis are perhaps the most dangerous in example and revolting to humanity. And the Mississippi case they first commenced by hanging the regular gamblers a set of men certainly not following for a livelihood. A very useful or a very honest occupation but one which so far from being forbidden by the laws was actually licensed by an act of the legislature passed but a single year before next negro suspected of conspiring to raise an insurrection were caught up and hanged in all parts of the state. Then white men supposed to be league with the negroes and finally strangers from neighboring states going there on business were in many instances subjected to the same fate. The US went on this process of hanging from gamblers to Negroes from Negroes to white citizens and from the east to strangers till dead men were
seen literally dangling from the bows of trees upon every roadside and in numbers almost sufficient to rival the native Spanish moss of the country as a drapery of the forest. Turn then to that horse striking scene at St. Louis. A single victim was only sacrifice there. His story is very short and is perhaps the most highly tragic of anything of its length that has ever been witnessed in real life. A mulatto man by the name of Macintosh was seized in the street dragged to the suburbs of the city chained to a tree and actually burned to death and all within a single hour from the time he had been a free man attending to his own business and at peace with the world. Such are the effects of mob law and such at the scenes becoming more and more frequent in this land so lately famed for love of Law and Order and the stories of which have even now grown too familiar to attract anything more than an idle remark.
But you are perhaps ready to ask what has this to do with the perpetuation of our political institutions. I answer it has much to do with it. Its direct consequences are comparatively speaking but a small evil and much of much of its danger consists in the proneness of our minds to regard its direct as its only consequences abstractly consider the hanging of the gamblers at Vicksburg was of but little consequence. They constitute a portion of population that is worse than useless in any community and their deaths have no pernicious example be set by it is never a matter of reasonable regret with anyone. If they were manually swept from the stage of existence by the plague or smallpox honest men would perhaps be much profited by the operation. Similar to is the correct reasoning in regard to the burning of the Negro at St. Louis. He had forfeited his life but the perpetration of an outrageous murder upon one of the most worthy and respectable citizens of the city. And had he not died as he did he must have died by the
sentence of the law in a very short time afterwards. As to him alone it was as well the way it was as it could otherwise have been. But the example in either case was fearful when man take it in their heads today 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 someone who is neither a gambler nor murderer as one who is. And then acting upon the example they set the mob up tomorrow may and probably will hang or burn some of them by the very same mystique. And not only still the innocent those who have ever set their faces against violations of law and every sheep alike with the guilty fall victims to the ravages of mob law. 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. But all this even is not
the full extent of the evil by such examples by instances of the perpetrators of such acts going unpunished. The lawless in spirit are encouraged to become lawless in practice. And having been used no restraint but dread of punishment they've become absolutely unrestrained. Having ever regarded government as their deadliest Bane they make a job of the suspension of its operations and pray for nothing so much as its total annihilation on the other hand good men men who love tranquility who desire to abide by the laws and enjoy their benefits. Who would gladly spill their blood in the defense of their country seeing their property destroyed their families in solid and their lives endangered their persons injured and seeing nothing in prospect that for bodes a change for the better. Become tired of and disgusted with the government that offers them no protection and are not much averse to a change in which they imagine they have nothing to lose.
Thus then by the operation of this model Craddock's spirit which all must admit is now abroad in the land of the strongest ball work of any government and particularly of those constituted like ours may eventually be broken down and destroyed. I mean the attachment of the people. Whenever this effects will be produced among us whenever the vicious portion of populations will be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands and burn churches ravage and Rob provision stores through printing presses into rivers shoot editors and hang and burn obnoxious persons at will and with impunity depend on it this government cannot last by such things the feelings of the best citizens will become more or less alienated from it and thus it will be left without friends or with too few and those few too weak to make their friendship effectual at such a time and under such circumstances men of sufficient talent and ambition will not be wanting to seize the opportunity to strike for blow and
overturn that fair fabric which for the last half century has been the fondest hope of the lovers of freedom throughout the world. I know the American people are much attached to their government. I know they would suffer much worse sake. I know they would endure evils long and patiently before they would ever think of exchanging it for another. Yet notwithstanding all this if the laws be continually despised and disregarded if their rights to be secure in their persons and property are held by no better tenure the priests of a mob. The alienation of their affections for the government is the natural consequence. And to that sooner or later it must come. Here then is one point at which danger may be expected. The question recurs how shall we fortify against it. The answer is simple that every American every lover of liberty every well-wisher to his posterity swear by the blood of the revolution never to violate in the least particular the laws
of the country and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of 76 did to the support of the Declaration of Independence so did the support of the Constitution and laws. Let every American pledge his life his property and his sacred honor let every man remember that to violate the law is to trample on the blood of his father and to tear the character of his own and his children's liberty but reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap. Let it be taught in schools in seminaries and in colleges. Let it be written in primers spelling books and in almanacs that it be preached from the pulpit proclaimed in legislative halls and enforced in courts of justice. And in short let it be become the political religion of the nation. And then in the young the rich and the poor the grave and the gay of all sexes and tongues and colors and conditions sacrifice on ceasing knee upon
its altars while ever a state of feeling such as this shall universally or even very generally prevail throughout the nation in vain will be every effort in proved less every attempt to subvert our national freedom. When I saw pressingly urge a strict observance of all the laws let me not to be understood as saying there are no bad laws nor that grievances may not arise for the redress of which no legal provisions have been made. I mean to say no such thing. But I do mean to say that although bad laws if they exist should be repealed as soon as possible. Still while they continue in force for the sake of example they should be religiously observed. So also in unprovided cases if such arise let proper legal provisions be made for them with the least possible delay. But till then let them if not to intolerable be born with.
There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law. In any case that arises as for instance the promulgation of abolitionism one of two positions is necessarily true. That is the thing is right within itself and therefore deserves the protection of all law and all good citizens or it is wrong and therefore proper to be prohibited by legal enactments. And in neither case is the intra position of mob law either necessary justifiable or excusable. But it may be asked why supposed danger to apply to our political institutions. Have we not preserved them for more than 50 years. And why me we not for fifty times as long. We hope there is no sufficient reason we hold all dangers may be overcome. But to conclude that no danger may ever arise would itself be extremely dangerous. There are no hereafter be many causes dangers and their tendency which have not existed here to
fore and which are not too insignificant to merit attention. That our government should have been maintained in its original form from its establishment until now is not much to be wondered at. It had many props to support it through that period which Kaden crumbled away through that period it was felt by all to be an undecided experiment. Now it is understood to be a successful one. Then all that sought celebrity and fame and distinction expected to find them in the success of that experiment. There all was stake the planet their destiny was inseparably linked with it. Their ambition aspired to display before an admiring world a practical demonstration of the truth of a proposition which had here hitherto been considered at best no better than problematical namely the capability of a people to govern themselves if they succeeded they were to be mortal eyes. Their names were to be transferred to counties and cities and rivers and mountains and to be revered and sung and toasted through all time
if they failed they were to be called Needs improves and fanatics for a fleeting hour. Then to sink and be forgotten. They succeeded the experiment is successful and thousands have won the deathless names in making it sold. But the game is caught. And I believe it is true that with the catching end the pleasures of the chase this field of glory is harvested and the crop is already appropriated. But new weepers will arise and they too will seek the field. It is to deny what the history of the world tells us is true. To suppose that men have a mission and talents will not continue to spring up amongst us. And when they do they will as naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion. As others have so done before them. The question then is and that gratification be found in supporting and maintaining an edifice that has been erected by others. Most certainly it cannot. Many great and good men sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake may never
be found whose ambition would aspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress a gubernatorial or presidential chair. But such a belong not to the family of the Lion or of the tribe of the eagle. What think you these places would satisfy in Alexander Caesar are Napoleon never. Towering genius disdains a beaten path it seeks regions hitherto on explored it sees no distinction in adding story to story upon the monuments of Fame erected to the memory of others. It denies that it is glory enough to serve under any treat its scorn is to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor. However illustrious it thirsts and burns produced ancient and if possible it will have it whether at the expense of emancipating slaves or enslaving free men. Is it unreasonable then to expect that some men man possessed of the lofty is genius coupled with an ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch will at some
time spring up amongst us. And when such a one dies it will require the people to be united with each other attached to the government and laws and generally intelligent to successfully frustrate his designs. Distinction will be his paramount object and although he would as willingly perhaps more so acquired by doing good as harm. Yet that opportunity being passed and nothing left to be done in the way of building up he would said bitterly to the task of pulling down. Here then is a probable case highly dangerous and such a one as could not have well existed here too for. Another reason which ones was but which to the same extent is knowledge no more has done much in maintaining our institutions thus far. I mean the powerful influence which the interesting scenes of the revolution had upon the passions of the people as distinguished from their judgment by this influence that jealousy envy and avarice
incident to our nature and so common to a state of peace prosperity and conscious strength were for the time in a great measure smothered and rendered inactive while the deep rooted principles of hate and the powerful motive of revenge instead of being turned against each other were directed exclusively against the British nation and thus from the force of circumstances the basis principles of our nature were either made to lie dormant or to become the active agents in the advancement of the noblest of cause that of a stably Xing in maintaining civil and religious liberty. But this state of feeling must fade is fading has faded with the circumstances that produced it. I do not mean to say that the scenes of the revolution are not or ever will be entirely forgotten but that like everything else they must fade upon the memory of the world and grow more and more DMN by the lapse of time and history we hope they will be read of and
recounted. So long as the Bible shall be read. But even granting that they will their influence cannot be what it here to for has been. Even then they cannot be so universally known nor so vividly felt as they were by the generation just gone to rest at the close of that struggle nearly every adult male had been a participate in some of its scenes. The consequence was that of those scenes in the form of a husband father a son or a brother a living history was to be found in every family. A history bearing the Indu biddable testimonies of its own authenticity in the limb is mangled and the scars of wounds received in the midst of the very scenes related history to that could be read and understood alike by all the wise and the ignorant the learned and the on learned. But those histories are gone. They can be read no more forever. They were a fortress of strength. But what invading Bowman could never do the silent artillery of time
has done the levelling of its walls. They are gone. They were a forest of giant Oaks but the all resistless hurricane has swept over them and left only here and there a lonely trunk despoiled of its verge are shorn of its foliage on shading and on shaded to murmur in a few more gentle breezes and to combat with its mutilated limbs. A few more ruder storms then to sing and be no more. They were the pillars of the temple of liberty. And now that they have crumbled away that temple must fall on less we their descendants supply their places with other pillars Huon from the solid quality of sober reason passion has helped us but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason.
Calculating unimpassioned reason must furnish all the materials for our future support and defense. Let those materials be molded into general intelligence. Sound morality and in particular a reverence for the Constitution and laws and that we improved to the last that we remain free to the last that we revered his name to the last during his sleep we permitted normal hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting place should be that which to learn the last trump shall awaken our Washington upon these. Let the proud fabric of freedom rest as the rock of its basis. And this truly has as been said of the only greater institution the church the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. You who have listened to this reading of Lincoln's speech of
1838 might be interested in what critics have said about the message. Roy Bassler noted Lincoln expert says critical estimates of this address have varied considerably Hernan terms it often more beverage concludes that it was the most notable of his life bus far and in fact for many years thereafter. James Webb Berlin and such were his words. Abraham Lincoln Association papers claims that the third paragraph from the last was never surpassed by anything Lincoln ever wrote. Perhaps the central paragraphs are most significant if not for rhetoric certainly for a philosophy of government. For them the student may trace Lincoln's reasoning in regard to how American political institutions may be preserved and yet modified by the people to rectify errors in the structure of justice. This central philosophy Lincoln held consistently as his later writings testify.
Besler for instance States in a perceptive paragraph it is clear in the perpetuation of our political institutions that the fundamental theme of the Gettysburg Address which was later to be woven out of these very concepts was essentially in 1838 what it was in 1863. The central concept of Lincoln's political philosophy. Lincoln thought of American democracy as an experiment in achieving human liberty relatively successful but far from completed and threatened most by the model Craddock's spirit and the failure of the citizens to observe and preserve the duly constituted authority of government. One sentence from this early speech contains the essential germ of the Gettysburg Address. Speaking of the founders of American political institutions Lincoln said there is was the task and nobody they performed it to possess themselves and through themselves of this goodly land and to appear upon its hills and its valleys a political edifice of liberty and equal rights is ours only
to transmit these. The former on profane by the foot of the invader the latter on decayed by the lapse of time and on torn by usurpation to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. In 1863 he was to say it is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. The government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth. As for one of Lincoln's earlier writings. A brief word is in order. There is a definite comparison between his speech in the Illinois legislature at Springfield January 11th 1837 and the speech we shared today in the legislative address he opposed a resolution to institute an inquiry into the management of the State Bank. His political philosophy of law can be seen in that message. For instance in these words. I have said that cases might occur when an examination of the State Bank might be proper.
But I do not believe any such case has now occurred and if it has I should still be opposed to making an examination without legal authority. I am opposed to encouraging that lawless and mob accredit spirit whether in relation to the bank or anything else which is already abroad in the land and is spreading with a rapid and fearful impetuosity to the ultimate overthrow of every institution or even moral principle in which persons and property have hitherto found security. No matter what our views of Lincoln's speech on the perpetuation of our political institutions may be it is certain that it marked Lincoln the young orator as a potential social prophet of no little ability one who eventually would leave America in his debt.
- Lincoln as a social prophet
- Producing Organization
- Northern Illinois University
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Series Description
- Lincoln as a Social Prophet. A series of readings prepared and delivered by Marvin Ceynar, speech instructor at Northern Illinois U. Readings are from letters and speeches by Lincoln. This prog.: what Place Violence in a Democracy?
- Media type
Producing Organization: WNIC
Producing Organization: Northern Illinois University
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-25-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Lincoln as a social prophet; what Place Violence in a Democracy?,” 1968-07-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 27, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-g15tc84w.
- MLA: “Lincoln as a social prophet; what Place Violence in a Democracy?.” 1968-07-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 27, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-g15tc84w>.
- APA: Lincoln as a social prophet; what Place Violence in a Democracy?. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-g15tc84w