Edward Achorn in this morning’s Providence Journal reminded me of Abraham Lincoln’s great regard for the Declaration of Independence. In his editorial he quotes Lincoln in a speech made August 17, 1858:
‘ We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal: that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man.
In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages.
Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so established these great self evident truths, ‘to protect people in future days when they might suffer under a government that forced its will on them for the benefit of economic and political interests, oppressing or stealing the labor of some to make others rich or powerful.’
They knew their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their father began – so that truth, justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built.
What a wonderful string of words….’This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the universe.’ With great irony we now begin to realize the qualities of the Declaration of Independence’s economic thought (See blog on happiness).
Mr. Achorn assumed Lincoln’s words sound hopelessly old-fashioned in today’s world. Other than the ‘man’ antique language, I would hope we can still appreciate Mr. Lincoln.
Happy Fourth of July.