Weekend Reading

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Don’t miss January’s issue of Hillsdale’s Imprimis, Are We Free to Discuss America’s Real Problems?  In it the author mentions an op-ed she co-wrote last summer, “Paying the Price for Breakdown of the Country’s Bourgeois Culture”, and all the criticism it received.  After reading it, though, it sounded like a lot of common sense to me.  What are your thoughts?

 

*Cultural Contemplations is a private blog and is not affiliated with any particular institution or organization.

*Photo source

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A Nation of Inventors

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“We are called the nation of inventors.  And we are.  We could still claim that title and wear its loftiest honors if we had stopped with the first thing we ever invented, which was human liberty.”

– Mark Twain

 

*Photo source

The Sun is Dressed in Brightest Beams

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Abigail Adams’ signature

“The Sun is dressed in Brightest Beams”
“To Give thy Honours to the Day.”

And may it prove an auspicious prelude to each ensuing Season. You have this day to declare Yourself Head of A Nation. And now O Lord my God thou hast made thy servant Ruler over the people, give unto him an understanding Heart, that he may know how to go out, and come in before this great people, that he may descern between good and bad, for who is able to judge this, thy so great people? Were the Words of a Royal Soverign, and not less applicable to him who is invested with the Chief Majestracy of a Nation, tho he wear not a Crown, or the Robes of Royalty.

My Thoughts, and my meditations are with you, tho personally absent, and my petitions to Heaven are that the things which make for Peace, may not be hiden from your Eyes. My feelings are not those of pride, or ostentation upon the occasion. They are solemnized by a sense of the obligations, the important Trusts and Numerous Duties connected with it, that you may be enabled to discharge them with Honour to yourself, with justice and impartiality to your Country, and with satisfaction to this great people shall be

The Daily prayer of your
A Adams

– Abigail Adams,
letter to John Adams as he accepted the nomination for President,
February 8th, 1797

Human Law

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Supreme Court Justice James Wilson (source)

“Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is divine. . .Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants.  Indeed, these two sciences run into each other.”

– James Wilson,
signer of the Constitution, original U.S. Supreme Court Justice

Weekend Reading

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The beginning of a new year is a good time to consider goals and priorities.  While written from a homesteader’s perspective, this blog post is a helpful reminder on prioritizing your day or seasons of life: How I (Don’t) Do It All.

America’s future depends on the next generation, as Victor Davis Hanson points out in his article, Can Countries Make Themselves Great Again?  It also provides some interesting examples of how countries have risen again even after presumed defeat.

 

*Cultural Contemplations is a private blog and is not affiliated with any particular institution or organization.

Lincoln’s Lyceum Address

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Engraved portrait of Lincoln as President (source)

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, find our account running under date of the nineteenth 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 salubrity 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 the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them; they are a legacy bequeathed us by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed, race of ancestors. Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves us, of this goodly land, and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; ’tis ours only to transmit these — the former unprofaned by the foot of an invader, the latter undecayed by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation — to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task of gratitude to our fathers, 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) in 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 reach us 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 freemen we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

I hope 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; and that it now 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. . .

* * *

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 its danger consists in the proneness of our minds to regard its direct as its only consequences. . . And not only so; the innocent, those who have ever set their faces against violations of law in every shape, alike with the guilty fall victims to the ravages of mob law; and thus it goes up, 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 to no restraint but dread of punishment, they thus become absolutely unrestrained. Having ever regarded government as their deadliest bane, they make a jubilee of the suspension of its operations, and pray for nothing so much as its total annihilation. While, on the other hand, good men, men who love tranquillity, 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 insulted, and their lives endangered, their persons injured, and seeing nothing in prospect that forebodes a change for the better, become tired of and disgusted with a government that offers them no protection, and are not much averse to a change in which they imagine they have nothing to lose. . .

I know the American people are much attached to their government; I know they would suffer much for its 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 than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections from 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. Let 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 seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to 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 charter of his own and his children’s liberty. Let 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; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay of all sexes and tongues and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

* * *

But it may be asked, “Why suppose danger to our political institutions? Have we not preserved them for more than fifty years? And why may we not for fifty times as long?”

We hope there is no sufficient reason. We hope all danger may be overcome; but to conclude that no danger may ever arise would itself be extremely dangerous. There are now, and will hereafter be, many causes, dangerous in their tendency, which have not existed heretofore, 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 now are decayed and crumbled away. Through that period it was felt by all to be an undecided experiment; now it is understood to be a successful one. . .

* * *

But this state of feeling must fade, is fading, had faded, with the circumstances that produced it.

I do not mean to say that the scenes of the Revolution are now 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 dim by the lapse of time. In 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 heretofore 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 participator in some of its scenes. The consequence was that of those scenes, in the form of a husband, a father, a son, or a brother, a living history was to be found in every family — a history bearing the indubitable testimonies of its own authenticity, in the limbs mangled, in the scars of wounds received, in the midst of the very scenes related — a history, too, that could be read and understood alike by all, the wise and the ignorant, the learned and the unlearned. But those histories are gone. They can be read no more forever. They were a fortress of strength; but what invading foeman could never do, the silent artillery of time has done — the leveling 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 verdure, shorn of its foliage, unshading and unshaded, to murmur in a few more gentle breezes, and to combat with its mutilated limbs a few more ruder storms, then to sink and be no more.

They were pillars of the temple of liberty; and now that they have crumbled away that temple must fall unless we, their descendants, supply their places with other pillars, hewn from the solid quarry of sober reason. Passion has helped us, but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason — cold, 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 remained free to the last, that we revered his name to the last, that during his long sleep we permitted no hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting-place, shall 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 as truly as has been said of the only greater institution, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

– Abraham Lincoln,
“Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois”,
January 27, 1838

 

(The entire speech can be found here)

Weekend Reading

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I haven’t yet seen the new film Darkest Hour, but have heard that it’s excellent.  You can get a sneak peak into the storyline with Hillsdale College’s Imprimis from last month, “Three Lessons of Statesmanship”.

In a day and age where the definition of the term “friend” has become synonymous with a follower on Facebook, I found this to be an interesting concept: “The Benefits of Cultivating Your Friendships Like Spaces”.

 

*Cultural Contemplations is a private blog and is not affiliated with any particular institution or organization.