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Lincoln (February 12, 1809 - April 15, 1865 7:22 A.M.)
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States of America and led the nation during one of the most tumultuous periods of our history. Lincoln was born in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky. The son of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln, he was named for his paternal grandfather. Thomas Lincoln was a carpenter and farmer. Both of Abraham's parents were members of a Baptist congregation which had separated from another church due to opposition to slavery. When Abraham was 7, the family moved to southern Indiana.
Lincoln always insisted that the Declaration of Independence set forth a timeless truth, "applicable to all men and all times," that all men are created equal. This equality of liberty was the bedrock upon which was founded the right to create a government in the first place; only if all men are created equal can they have the right to government by consent.
Lincoln was profoundly opposed to moral relativism, and wrote the following in response to the Know-Nothings, a political party that took a strong nativist approach:
"As a nation, we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal, except negroes. 'When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.' When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty -- to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy.
Abraham Lincoln insisted on the moral superiority of liberty. What a person did with that liberty -- so long as he injured no nonconsenting person — was his own business. Lincoln disapproved of drinking, but respected the right of another person to drink, because, as William L.Miller puts it, "once the protections [afforded to another's liberty] are breached, it may be your freedom of belief and speech that are suppressed." Because all men are created equal -- because each person owns himself -- each has the right to destroy himself if he so chooses, unfortunate as such a choice is. But that liberty does not extend to allowing a person to make choices for anyone else -- i.e., slavery. "I believe," Lincoln said, "that every individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruits of his labor, so far as it in no way interferes with any other man's rights."
Lincoln is a great descendant of Jeffersonian philosophy because, unlike so many of his contemporaries, and unlike so many Americans today, he clung to that single moral-political vision that any "sovereignty" asserting a right to oppress, without any third party complaining, is a false sovereignty, a slave state, built on force instead of reason, built on coercion instead of persuasion — built, in short, on genuine moral nihilism. "If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong," Lincoln said. If there is no natural right to liberty, then just law is whatever the sovereign says it is, and that sovereign -- be it a king or a voting bloc -- can oppress "Negroes and foreigners and Catholics," or capitalists or women or Muslims or whites, with impunity; may define slavery and freedom as the same thing, as Big Brother. But Lincoln, William L. Miller writes, "was aware that a majority has moral dignity only if assembled under conditions of freedom, with freedom to overturn it maintained. He used the phrase 'the mere force of numbers,' reflecting an awareness that a majority assembled and maintained under unfree conditions could lack moral standing, and represent sheer, oppressive power."
-- abstracted from http://libertyunbound.com/archive/2002_04/sandefur-jeffersonian.html
Revolution was “a moral right, when exercised for a morally justifiable cause,” wrote Lincoln. But “when exercised without such a cause revolution is no right, but simply a wicked exercise of physical power.” The South had no just cause. The event that precipitated secession was the election of a president by a constitutional majority. The “central idea” of the Union cause, said Lincoln, “is the necessity of proving that popular government is not an absurdity. We must settle this question now, whether in a free government the minority have the right to break up the government whenever they choose."
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