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This Week In History
February 6 - 12, 1809
Abraham Lincoln's Birthday

February 2011

Abraham Lincoln.

At this point in world history, there is no more appropriate historical event to commemorate this coming week than the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, Feb. 12, 1809. Abraham Lincoln—whose life culminated in his achievements in the Presidency and the winning of the Civil War, only to be cut short by his assassination—represents the most sublime character to be found in American history, and his life holds deep lessons for those who aspire to bring the United States back to its republican roots.

The revisionist critiques of Lincoln, which have tended to dominate popular culture and the pseudo-intelligentsia in recent decades, should be rejected out of hand. Lincoln represented the Leibnizian commitment of the Founding Fathers of the United States throughout his entire life, and waged war in order to retain the survival of that quality of a republic. He understood the sacrifices that had to be made in order to reach that objective, and put himself personally at risk for that purpose. The fact that he was murdered before he could put to work his own plan for reconciliation of the nation, was a tragedy for the nation, but his achievement in saving the Union did not die.

There is no adequate way, in this short space, to do justice to Lincoln's achievement, but we'll point to certain aspects of his thinking, which led him to go against popular opinion, on the basis of his principled commitment to the good of the country.

One can start with his economic program, which he summarized in an 1820s campaign speech as comprised of three simple planks: the national bank, the tariff, and internal improvements. These were the essential components of the American System of Economics, which relied on a sovereign commitment to promoting the improvement of living standard for current and future generations. They stayed with Lincoln all of his political life, leading him to promote visionary schemes such as the Transcontinental Railroad—which he then was able to implement as President.

On foreign relations, Lincoln made a name for himself during his term in Congress, by opposing the Confederate-inspired war against Mexico. Those who today complain that no patriot should dare oppose the unjust war against the Arab world, in the guise of war against Iraq, should take a look at Lincoln's stand in upholding a standard of justice, rather than the populist "support the troops." This approach to the United States' sister republics in the Western Hemisphere was realized in a positive manner during Lincoln's Presidency, when he offered the hand of support to Mexico's Benito Juarez, who was embattled by the oligarchical forces of Europe.

Behind both of these "objective" policy measures, lay Lincoln's commitment to the idea of every human being having God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—and to the idea that government must provide the conditions under which these rights could be achieved. That this was his self-conscious commitment was demonstrated in two other actions he took, both of which helped lead to his tragic death, while at the same time providing the crucial moral foundations for the post-war survival of the United States, both in its borders, and as a model internationally.

The first action I refer to, is the Emancipation Proclamation, and Lincoln's determination to get rid of slavery. Lincoln was engaged in constant battle on the issue of slavery, against those who wished to destroy the Union in order to allegedly abolish slavery, and against those who were determined to preserve it. In fact, either of these extremes would have destroyed the prospect of a free United States, and Lincoln knew it. He chose to hew to his basic commitment that slavery was a moral evil, in order to win the conditions to abolish it.

The second action was Lincoln's commitment to reconciliation after the war, a reconciliation in which his approach to economic development in all parts of the nation, represented the only hope. We find this principle expressed more poetically than in any other statement by any American President, in the Gettysburg Address (in which there is no reference to "sides"), and in Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. This kind of commitment to the highest form of justice for all, rather than retribution, is a quality which we find so lacking in most of our public officials today.

Read here the conclusion of that Second Inaugural, given on March 4, 1865:

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

A little more than a month later, the war having finally been won, "Father Abraham" was assassinated at the hand of those committed to preventing that "just and lasting peace." Yet Lincoln's impact was immortal, leading to the incarnation of the principles he fought for all over the world, and eventually, in the Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and, today, in the leadership of Lyndon LaRouche.

The world should truly give thanks that Abraham Lincoln was born.

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