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Sun Jun 30, 2019, 09:34 PM

How Lincoln's disdain for demagogues pricks Trump's Fourth of July pomposity

Great article to guide our perspective on the 4th....

How Lincoln's disdain for demagogues pricks Trump's Fourth of July pomposity
If nothing else, the president’s speech on the Mall on Thursday will show how far we have fallen since Lincoln
Sidney Blumenthal
Sun 30 Jun 2019 06.00 BST

Read here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/30/trump-lincoln-sidney-blumenthal

On 4 July, while Trump mugs on the Mall, the marble Lincoln will maintain a dignified silence. Many have wondered what Lincoln might say if confronted by the people and events of their time. In 1914, at the beginning of the first world war, the poet Vachel Lindsay, in Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight, portrayed a ghostly Lincoln deploring the conflagration. But we do not have to wonder what Lincoln might say about demagogic exploitation of the Fourth of July or hypocritical displays about the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. His statements on the subject were voluminous, plain and scathing.

Here is a small sample:

To a friend, 15 August 1855:

On the question of liberty, as a principle, we are not what we have been. When we were the political slaves of King George, and wanted to be free, we called the maxim that ‘all men are created equal,’ a self-evident truth; but now when we have grown fat, and have lost all dread of being slaves ourselves, we have become so greedy to be masters that we call the same maxim ‘a self-evident lie.’ The Fourth of July has not quite dwindled away; it is still a great day – for burning fire-crackers!!!


More than the expropriation of Independence Day to justify slavery agitated Lincoln. A week later, on 24 August, he wrote his close friend Joshua Speed to complain about the rising anti-immigrant, nativist and super-patriotic Know Nothing party as a duplicitous mockery of the Declaration of Independence:

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 pretense of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.


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