Far above our poor power to add or detract

Today is the 149th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—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.


  1. Ben says

    I celebrated by watching “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” yesterday. I’m sure there are more honorable ways of celebrating, but at least it was something.

  2. varangianguard says

    I wonder.

    Do Lincoln’s political “descendants” still buy into the part “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”?

  3. HoosierOne says

    Why Varian – they hardly believe in the “Indivisible” part of the ledge of allegiance they want to cram down everyone’s throat as they force every child in Indiana to stand and say the pledge daily.

  4. says

    I remain of the opinion that states have a right to secede. I also think it’s a very dumb idea.
    I was unaware that the “they” who prescribe the pledge daily were secessionist types, especially when “indivisible” was (if memory serves) pointedly aimed at throwing a pre-emptive wet blanket on secession.

    • says

      I don’t really think they do have the right to secede. But, presuming they did, I’ve wondered what a legitimate procedure would be for exercising that right. Would U.S. citizens living in those states who did not support secession have some kind of recourse? Would the secession constitute a “taking” in some sense? Would they remain U.S. citizens?

  5. varangianguard says

    The problem with secession, for my part, is the term “oppressive”. Obviously, for some people, I don’t think it means what they think it means.

  6. says

    The only group “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” is the libertarians. The two major parties are in cahoots to move us in the other direction.

    Good article today from a law prof (instapundit) about secession petitions being more about a longing for federalism:

    As for the legality of secession, the state and the US Congress would have to pass legislation permitting such action. As likely as the Cubs winning the World Series !

    • says

      It’s well and good for Reynolds to talk about how secession movements in other countries have been about this or that, but given our history, I think you have to live with the fact that secession was not about an abiding love of federalism in this case.

      Secession in our country was explicitly about slavery. Contentions that it was maybe about federalism start failing when one looks at the seceding states’ complaints about the Fugitive Slave Act. Far from championing federalism, these states were angry that the federal government was not doing enough to compel non-slave states to enforce this federal law.

      Given the pernicious Lost Cause mythology that tries to pretend that the Southerners rebelled over something other than slavery, I think guys like Reynolds really need to explicitly acknowledge that, in our history, secession was about slavery before meandering on to reasons regions in other countries have historically attempted secession.

        • steelydanfan says

          The Libertarian mal-conception of “freedom” is a vulgar, formalistic mal-conception that assumes liberty is a consequence of the presence or absence of certain institutions rather than actual people actually being able to act in accordance with their own goals, desires, and potential.

          • steelydanfan says

            One is not free in a capitalist society. It may have the outward formalities of “freedom”–absence of state control, etc. but in truth there are still plenty of constraints on human action. One is not free to live as he chooses when one’s access to the material requirements of survival is contingent upon making a boss/shareholder/customer happy, after all.

          • says

            So wait- let me get this straight. Because libertarians do accept limitations on the ability to act on certain desires (Smith wants to kill Jones is prohibited by the state, for instance), we’re “enemies of real freedom”?

            Well, ok then. Guilty as charged. There is indeed a distinction between libertarianism and anarchism.

            • steelydanfan says

              That would be the exact opposite of what I said. Please try reading next time.

              Actually, it’s precisely because libertarians don’t accept limitations on the ability to act on certain desires that they’re opposed to freedom. You correctly recognize that the “freedom” to hold a roomful of people hostage at gunpoint is obviously incompatible with real freedom, but you fail to recognize that the private and unequal control of wealth is every bit as coercive as a gun.

              Your notion of “freedom” is decontextualized, and ignores the advances in our understanding of how societies work in the real world that have developed since the late Enlightenment. Your notion of “freedom” may have been intellectually tenable in light of what was known about how societies work in the 1780s, but that is no longer the case. You’ve reified policy prescriptions that are merely the product of underlying principles in a given social and intellectual climate, as principles-in-themselves.

  7. says

    The only people dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal is the librarians.

    Also: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here…” Does this win the prize for the most historically ironic comment ever?

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