Diana Schaub on Lincoln's Political Thought: The Lyceum Address and The Gettysburg Address

Diana Schaub on Lincoln's Political Thought: The Lyceum Address and The Gettysburg Address



hi welcome to conversations I'm bill kristol and I'm very pleased to be joined today by Diana Schaub professor of political science at the University of Maryland author of terrific works on Lincoln Frederick Douglas Montesquieu and others and we had a previous conversation with Frederick Douglass which I highly recommend people watch either before or after this conversation in conjunction with this conversation Lincoln to greatest men of the 19th century in my opinion is that right I think so yeah greatest Americans our greatest friend yeah okay you're gonna go in greatest man I'm face man I have to make my case for Tocqueville at some point for weekend that's a good conversation but they are awfully impressive and Lincoln of course is very daunting how do we cover him in one conversation we can't but I guess we thought we might focus on three speeches the Lyceum speech he gives what he's 28 years old I think and then Gettysburg in the second inaugural the two great speeches of his presidency and sort of what he's trying to get at least great surface of what he's trying to accomplish in these features in terms of his understanding of America equality and so forth so Lyceum speech yeah he gives that when he's what 28 years old yes a young man he's already an elected official he's serving his second term in the Illinois House and he's invited to give a lecture as a kind of rising local dignitary more well known outsiders were also invited to give these addresses Emerson apparently made an appearance at the Springfield Lyceum we don't know whether Lincoln was in attendance so we have the text of the speech because look it seems to have it gets printed I think in the newspaper is that right yeah sure that would have been the tradition and we also know that Lincoln was extremely careful to make sure that his things got into print and he supervised their production very carefully so things like his use of italics which he likes to use a lot gives kind of indication to his meaning and so you get quite a bit of that in this in this speech so I think it's clear that it was meant to be heard but also very much meant to be read and still worth worth our reading and studying yeah this speech I think wasn't so famous back in the day so it was begun that's right it was sort of rediscovered in part because it seems a prefiguration of his own role in the civil war at a certain point he speaks of a person of great ambition who would be willing either to emancipate slaves or enslave freemen a person of great ambition wouldn't so much distinguish between whether he did one or the other great ambition is neutral and so Lincoln's own act of emancipating the slaves was read back into this speech and the question has to arise would Lincoln have been willing to enslave free man if he had not had the opportunity to to free the slaves of course there are some anti Lincoln folks who think that he did it slave freemen so so this has become a speech that's a rather contentious speech right interpretation of it and society and it's the topic of it which I think he's given right is I no no no the he chooses this topic yeah and this is again very characteristic of Lincoln there's no preamble there's no wind up he goes directly to his topic he tells you as a subject for the remarks of the evening the perpetuation of our political institutions is selected that's his topic sentence his thesis sentence doesn't come and tell a bit a bit later I think the perpetuation of our political institution is maybe not the typical topic that if 28 year old state legislature would take you know kind of a big I mean it's interesting that such a young man he was thinking so broadly and deeply to but about the meaning of America not about simply you know am I awake or am I eject so he is yeah policy agenda okay and actually that's that's interesting because Van Buren's first term is just beginning but Van Buren is sort of the hand-picked successor to Jackson and his two terms so from the Whig perspective and Lincoln is a wig this is a kind of continuation of Jacksonian tyranny but Lincoln here does not take it all a narrowly partisan a pro but he is I think in conversation maybe especially with Jackson and Jackson's farewell address had raised this question about the perpetuation of our political institutions so I yeah so I think there's a kind of I think there's a kind of key moment later where Lincoln is issuing a certain certain correction to what to what Jackson calls for and what should people look for in this speech as they as they go read it I mean what's uh well you should look for what's in it which I guess means reading it carefully he is engaged in a kind of diagnosis of the dangers of democracy so the the current danger which he sees as the advent of mock recei or mob rule it's very concerned about these incidents of vigilante justice that are breaking out all over the country so he's concerned about those those current dangers and then he has a certain solution that he recommends and then there's a second half of the speech where he's concerned about future dangers and that involves an analysis of the passions both the passions of the great and the passions of ordinary folks and then there is a kind of solution to that so there are sort of two diagnoses and to two sets of solutions and there's a question of how those two sets of solutions accord with one another so reverence is the first solution and reason is the second one we're maybe getting ahead that's a very good very clarifying summary for me because it's always been a somewhat bewildering I mean it could be too carefully and see a lot of irony and things going on but the overall structure is somewhat mystifying or doubles back on itself I guess almost the second start of it when he gets beyond I think you're right the first part is fairly not conventional strong but I mean it's your mob rule and therefore we need to have respect for them at reverence for the will of law that's come yeah but that it really viewers on takes another turn a deeper turn explain yeah yeah well um maybe we could just start by saying something about this this initial topic the perpetuation of our political institutions so in the course of considering perpetuation which means you know what does this generation need to do what do we need to keep on going how do we maintain this government it requires a reflection on how we got to this point so it requires a reflection on the founding and it requires a reflection on how the Republic might be lost the destruction of a republic so it turns out that perpetuation and consideration of perpetuation entails a comprehensive political reflection on founding unfounded possibly refounding so I think it's a pretty spectacular performance from a from a young man from anyone maybe so we mentioned doubling there are many moments of doubling in the speech in the beginning the first treatment of the founders it seems that founding is the higher task higher than perpetuation right theirs was the task and nobly they performed it right tis hours only to transmit we are just the inheritors we're lucky just just don't just don't blow it but later there is a reconsideration of the founders and there he says really what they achieved is not much to be wondered at because it had all kinds of props it was propped up by the passions it just so happened that the self-interest of the founders their quest for fame and celebrity was in accord with thee with the common good with the establishment of republicanism but that won't be the case in the future in the future men of great ambition it won't be sufficient just to be a custodian in the house of the fathers right this is something it's really spectacular what he says he says well there are lots of great and good men you know who would be satisfied with being representative or being President of the United States those are people who lack lofty ambition people who would be satisfied with being president right but they don't belong to the family of the lion and the tribe of the eagle people like that would scorn to serve in the footsteps of any predecessor so Lincoln is very worried about this individual of overweening ambition what happens the fate of a person of the found person of the founding type who comes along after the founding so there's an analysis on two levels I mean this is ee ee if you want to get fancier just I mean it seems to analyze both the incentives or ambitions of the few let's call it the yeah just you say that the founding seemed to be in conjunction with setting up a republic in Washington will be revered so that's all fine and then we'll come back to that as was a problematic those people find the situation to have but then it's the public as well who at the beginning I think Lincoln does stress it's not quite so hard to get them loyal to the new country because they have memories of the battles and kind of patriotism from that right yeah so the the issue there he says at the time of the founding there were all of these passions negative passions revenge and hatred and but all of those passions could be directed against the British so at the time of the founding the passions of the people served the revolution served the establishment of republicanism but after those passions will turn inward inward will become the basis of divisive Ness so he he says that now and in the future passion is our enemy we really have to turn to to reason so they're the few in the met so that's a property when amenity evaluates it with right he evaluates the future dangers both from the perspective of the few and the perspective of the many that's kind of striking two four twenty eight-year-old in tomorrow still is just visited where everyone's a Democrat you know with a little D yeah he's so aware of that distinction yeah in fact it's interesting to compare Lincoln and Tocqueville on ambition because Tocqueville worries seems to be that there won't be lofty ambition right that ambition will just become mediocre and directed only towards material goods and so Tocqueville looks for a way really to preserve lofty ambition whereas Lincoln says no there really is a permanent human nature and we have to assume that individuals of this type will arise so it's not a matter of for Lincoln of quashing that ambition it will be there and it will arise you have to prepare the people to meet it and so he says the the people have to be prepared they have to you have to have general intelligence and some morality and reverence for the Constitution and laws and those three things together will enable the people to reject the individual of overweening ambition in other words to enable them really to to to have some kind of insight into tyranny and that's based on reason he says I supposed yeah we will no longer have living memories of the revolution and you know people can't think back to the fight right yes so that that section is very interesting and very beautifully written but he seems to say that history will not be sufficient so he says that the scenes of the revolution we'll have a different standing once the living history is gone he says the the living history that you know carries its authenticity in the limbs mangled and the scars of wounds received you know in other words once grandfather with his Civil War scars is gone you can't tell those tales any longer so it revolution air war scars yes yeah yes oh it did I say Civil War yeah sorry there's a big difference between the hose in and they're standing so it is interesting he seems to say that the stories as they come through the books will not be enough and something needs to replace that so in a way he's saying that the founders while they wanted to prove the possibility of a people to be self-governing that that experiment really has not yet been successful because it was supported by these other props and we don't really know the capacity of a people to govern itself until we can see that that they are actually governing themselves in other words depends on a kind of individual self-government and that depends on the priority of reason I was thinking about this a few years ago I won't embarrass myself light pressure to the bathroom I had but at some point d-day was about as much we were about as much after d-day as Lincoln speech was after aha the revolution yeah wicked speeches what is 1838 38 and 39 38 38 yeah which is 38 plus 26 so 64 years after the Revolution so yeah ten years ago that would have been d-day yes so we are similar thing in a way at the J I kind of feel about the weeds we don't have obviously many World War two vets we don't have any Korea vets so it's not just we you know the fight against the terrorism both of the right and left is somewhat now a history book question not a lived thing yeah we are living through the same kind of moment the greatest generation will soon be gone the last living World War one veteran died a few years ago and enters the president's Bush Reagan you know that whole generation obviously from Kennedy through George HW Bush yeah so forth so what okay so what's the solution um for the few of the many I mean well mirror then the problem ya know I think that's where he says that reason is the solution right passion has helped us in the past can do so no longer in the future it will be cold calculating unimpassioned reason well he is certainly aware of people's resistance to reason he gives speech after speech taking people through the arguments and they don't listen to him he tells him already in 1838 he warns them of what's coming and we still we still get the Civil War he gives the first inaugural where he pleads with them and we still get the Civil War so it it may not be possible but I think he is serious in telling us that that really is the proof that is needed well the proof that the other you could pursue but here I've struck at the end or next last paragraph where as you said recent cold calculating on a missionaries unimpassioned reason must furnish all the materials for a future support natal and defense let those materials be molded into general intelligence sound morality and a particularly reverence for the Constitution and laws but yes reference is not quite reason no but but I believe he thinks that reverence is a is a is a kind of reasonable passion or maybe we have to think about how is he using this word passion and he may not include everything within passion that we include so he speaks sometimes about states of feeling and he thinks that a certain state of feeling should be cultivated or developed and he doesn't call that passion in other words he always uses passion to mean these negative passions so yeah I mean he says that it is reason that is molded into intelligence morality and reverence so reverence has a kind of reasonable basis or we could look at something like the temperance address where he says that where there is talking about persuasion and he gives a kind of theory of rhetoric and he says that he's speaking against the temperance folks and maybe also the abolitionists who are constantly speaking in tones of denunciation he says that that doesn't persuade anybody that just gets people's hackles up so you have to first convince someone that you are his sincere friend therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart which say what he will is the great high road to his reason so there he argues that the heart is the is the high road to reason I guess I was so there's more layers or complexity here than just cold unimpassioned reason right and at the end of that paragraph ecclesia the next last paragraph of the Lyceum speech and then he kind of gets quite elevated as rhetoric and revered we improved to the last we were in free to the last they revered his name to the last so that sounds quite religious if I can put it that way and and then in fact there's a explicit allusion to apparently at the end of it shall be that which to learn the last Trump shall awake get out of Washington so that's not sort of suggests are the limits of reason I guess I'm you're you know more willing to concede that references can be reasonable than I am maybe but isn't this a solicitation you need a political religion you can say it's based on reasons I mean I think that would be reasonable to say but there's a kind of acknowledgement of let's call it the limits of reason or a kind of attachment because getting awfully passionate about reason right yeah so we maybe got ahead of ourselves by not going through the discussion about mob law and and the call for for reverence well the problem is Bob is mob rule evolved rule and taking the law into your own hands yeah and so why is that a problem his account of that is kind of interesting and again there is a sort of double Ness he initially introduces this mob rule as really horrifying right repugnant to our humanity and he tells the two stories the story of what happened in Mississippi with all of these lynchings and these lynchings sort of spiraling out of control it sounds he has this description of dead men seen literally dangling from the boughs of trees upon every roadside it sounds like that the wonderful jazz song strange fruit horrifying picture and then he tell us about the the scene the horrors striking scene in st. Louis let me just read that a single victim was only sacrificed there his story is very short and his perhaps the most highly tragic of anything of its length which has ever been witnessed in real life a mulatto man by the name of McIntosh was seized in the street dragged to the suburbs of the city chained to a tree and actually burned to death all within a single hour from the time he'd been a free man attending to his own business and at peace with the world so it gives this description of mob law in operation and then he doubles back and he retells both stories and now he says well the direct consequences were really not of much account if the plague were to come along and sweep all the gamblers from Vicksburg from existence we would look upon that as a as a salutary event these folks are not much to be missed and then he says the truly at the correct reasoning in regard to the burning of the Negro at st. Louis so no longer a mulatto with by the name of McIntosh but a Negro at st. Louis who had committed an outrageous murder he would have died by the course of the law short time afterwards so he says for him alone it was probably as well the way it was a total yes almost yeah so it it seems to me he's giving a kind of illustration of passion and he's showing in fact that he can tell a story in a way that makes us react passionately but a misleading story yeah maybe maybe yeah I mean it's just the correct reasoning is you know this guy was a murderer right so it's a good example of how you can how you can be misled right so he's actually in any and he has shown what was it that motivated the lynchers what motivated the lynchers was their sense of justice so now he's forcing Americans to think not only about that tyrant out there but that they themselves have these tyrannical tendencies mob law is kind of tyranny of the of the mass so he wants us to shift from the direct consequences to thinking about the indirect consequences the long-term what does this mean for our attachment to our nation what does it mean for the status of the of the law and you see Lincoln do this time and again in speeches where he would contrast the direct effect of something with the indirect or the prospective effect of something he does it in in Peoria address where he talks about the the effect of kansas-nebraska Act in its principle both its direct effect in its prospective principle so so he does it here and and this requires that we think through it with him rather than just acting sort of him reacting and then he takes us through it what are the what are the the indirect effects well the first is of course that the innocent could be could be lynched rather than the guilty but then more problematically even is that the lawless and spirit are encouraged to become lawless in practice so there's a kind of recognition that there are folks out there who are only being held in check by the coercion of the law and once that's removed they feel free to do to do what they like and then maybe even worse is that the good men the law-abiding lose their trust and faith in the government and this is what he's most worried about the alienation of affection on the part of good citizens so they are interested in security and if popular government has this anarchic consequence that descends into mob rule then those good citizens will look to a strong man they will look to another form of government that can deliver that that security and order so he says that really is the test to figure out how to reattach Americans to their to their government and law which he then presses as he says and then he presses for a strict observance of the laws because even if they seem inconvenient the rule of laws terribly important principle announces to restrain the majority or a mob and a democracy yeah and not just inconvenient but even when they're bad right even bad laws must be obeyed religiously for the sake of law altogether which is a different attitude and sadly then one had it and the founders the founder then the American people had in 1776 presumably so there's a kind of perpetuation requires a sight different stance perhaps than the founding right yeah although Lincoln certainly believes there is a right of revolution right so you would have to evaluate are these particular bad laws made by a democracy and therefore they are binding and until you can convince the democracy other otherwise you are bound by those determinations of the majority so the situation the English case might be different those were not laws arrived at through self-government but imposed without representation what I think it's pretty clear that Lincoln thinks that the slaves are not bound by the laws of slavery it's it's democratic citizens who are bound by those determinations of the majority and so what else should we say about this fair interesting speech well maybe just that paragraph about reverence for the law and the way it contrasts with another one of our great moral lights Martin Luther King jr. who argues for civil disobedience and unjust law is not a law and Lincoln I think is in fundamental disagreement with King about civil disobedience that this formulation here would seem to disallow civil disobedience there's a right of revolution but short of that you must obey you must obey a law which is really a law of your own making if you are living under a republican order know whether the blacks were entirely involved in the making of the law as a fair question I suppose so well certainly the slaves are not and even the status of free blacks depending on their citizenship or you mean even at the sounds like they had much of a vote in these laws right in the south yeah but then you might say well alright is disobedience allowed to achieve the vote but not maybe for things like segregation yeah once they have them they could take care of segregation I mean I'm not sure it was entirely those two entirely separate bulwark but that's interesting yeah no I mean I mean most of what King does does not involve disobeying laws right right right it's only very occasionally that the movement steps into actual disobedience of law and so in other words nonviolent direct action that's not civil disobedience and even supposedly Diaz to see it I got a long time since I've read King carefully at all but even the kind of civil disobedience he calls for is ultimately for the sake of a reform that will allow for obedience one could argue I mean it so in that respect it takes a longer view I mean it's not simply this laws on just we're not obeying it you know it must be changed tomorrow it's more this laws unjust as part of a pattern which needs to be fundamentally changed but as part of it once changed or as it's being changed there's a basic loyalty to the overall Republic yeah he claims he's showing the utmost respect for the law by violating the law in the way that he does it well then with the willingness to accept the with to accept the penalty but I don't think there is a really fundamental disagreement here and that and and there were folks at the time of the civil rights struggle including African American thinkers who were we're not on board with this middle ground of civil disobedience right the thinkers who are both more radical than King like Malcolm X Malcolm X says there is no halfway ground it's either revolution or it's the ballot or the bullet there's no in-between and and on the more conservative side there were those who argued that they could have achieved everything that was achieved by remaining within the law interesting yeah efforts for King's Christian the the appeal to is there a kind of religious moral law as buzz is very important which Lincoln does not seem to want to in general permit I would say the sort of notion that you get to make your own judgement about what right so in fact that is what the abolitionists are doing and Lincoln is very worried about their assault on constitutionalism so the assault unconstitutional is coming not only from the south and the Calhoun i'ts but it's also coming from the north and the abolitionists so maybe just one more thing as the paragraph after this where he does raise the question of abolitionism so I think this is where he is responding quite directly to Jackson what Jackson had said in his farewell address is that Americans must be very careful not to offend the sensibilities of the southerners with respect to slavery and pretty clearly implying that northerners have no right to who denounced slavery and if we want to keep the nation together if we want to avoid the sort of polarization and sectionalism you have to silence that moral sense and Lincoln is is is not prepared to go there so Lincoln believes that there is an obligation on the part of the federal government not to intervene with slavery in the slave states but there is no obligation to silence one's moral sense and so this next paragraph I think he's really trying to open up space for political conversation so he says there's no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law in any case that arises as for instance the promulgation of abolitionism he just happened to pick that one out of a hat and remember the incident that has just happened in Illinois just a few weeks before this is the was the murder of Elijah Lovejoy an abolitionist editor of a newspaper he was murdered and the printing presses were thrown into the river so officially Lincoln talks about st. Louis and Mississippi but the incident that's uppermost in everyone's mind has just occurred in in Alton Illinois was the the murder of an abolitionist so he says in any case that arises as for instance the promulgation of abolitionism one of two positions is necessarily true that the thing that is the thing is right within itself and therefore deserves the protection of all law and all good citizens or it is wrong and therefore property be prohibited by legal enactments and in either case is the interposition of mob law either necessary justifiable or excusable now Lincoln doesn't tell us here where he comes down on that question he's just trying to open up space for reasonable conversation yes actually he doesn't sort of say though free speech should be protected yeah why not the movie yeah yeah true it's not an argument – right yeah he actually seems to say if it were wrong then we could buy legal it does seem strange partly he may just wanting to he may want to offer people that option but what he really wants to do is just get them to say we have to raise the question of whether it's right or wrong or not because if they raise the question of the rightness or wrongness of abolitionism they must raise the question of the rightness or wrongness of slavery and that's what he's wanting them to to focus on somehow underlies a lot in this speech even though it's not even though it's not yeah and the same thing is true of the temperance address the official topic is the temperance movement and the rhetoric proper to this kind of moral reform but the subterranean topic is slavery and abolitionism and their their rhetoric and whether there might be a better rhetoric to to forward the anti-slavery cause the temperance address is just a few years after a few years after this 1842 so I mean it's just taking a minute on this and if we don't get through all these other addresses we can have a second conversation because that it's I mean it's just so unbelievable that at age 28 and then at age 32 whenever he gives the temperance address he's giving these so carefully thought through and carefully brought written speeches and as reflected so much on popular government's a few of the many the fashions and reason I mean where does that come from I mean if I guess it just comes from him being like it but I mean do we know I don't yeah this is the myth sort of true and he doesn't really have much formal education right no yes the least formal education of any of our presidents less than a year you know off a few weeks a few months here and there in in a formal classroom so he was didn't have much formal schooling but I would argue that he was extremely well educated and he was self educated and he went to great lengths to acquire that self education Lord Charnwood author of my favorite biography of Lincoln 1916 yeah beautifully written he talks about Lincoln's education and he says that it was actually an advantage to him that he had few books and that those few books were good books do we know which ones particularly he we we know a little yeah yeah the bible and shakespeare i he had some exposure to the main strands of the Western tradition because he had an anthology Murray's English reader and so there would have been short snippets and selections from the Greeks and Romans so a little Cicero and a little demosthenes there would have been a lot of English authors you know Addison and Steele English poets Milton Byron he he was not much of a novel reader but he did like Defoe's Robinson Crusoe which he had as a young person so that's kind of exposure to modern modern thought I would say I he was a great lover of the poetry of Burns there's a very fine book by Fred Kaplan called what is it called Lincoln as writer or the making of a writer or something like that but he sort of lays out everything that is known about what texts Lincoln had at what point he was interested in them and very nice insights about what he drew from them so Burns was especially important both for his humor his ability to be moral without being moralistic what you see in Lincoln right the ability to be moral without being moralistic and the way in which humor can contribute to that and his sort of large sense of humanity never read any burned societies Lincoln could apparently cite it and do the Brogue oh very very very well yeah and he knew the American tax yeah and of course the American tax so so there he had both parson Weems is life of Washington and I think took a lot from that again that's a text that's now thought to be just kind of a graphic and over the top and it is a little over the top but there's a lot of value in it and Lincoln learned a lot about Washington from it especially since it gives the text of the farewell address we're gonna clearly pour it over the farewell address of Washington and he had Franklin's autobiography so those are sort of two heroes Washington and and Franklin yeah and I think he gets a lot from Franklin also so the importance that he puts on the virtue of resolution if you remember that section from Franklin where he sketches out his take on the virtues the thirteen virtues the fourth one is resolution and Lincoln at certain point in his life as a young man struggled with resolution he felt that his bad behavior is breaking off of his engagement to Mary Todd had shown that he lacked resolution and he actually refused to put himself forward politically until he had reacquired or had become confident that he could trust himself in his resolutions and then I suppose once he gets into public life obviously he has he's well aware of the debates and what's going on yeah great reader of newspapers and political pamphlets in the same way that Washington is very much like that immersed in thee you can see that obviously in this Beach yeah yeah reading the Congressional Record apparently memorized some speeches of clay clay he said was his bow ideal of a statesman even though his own rhetoric seems to me not not much like clays at all but right possess himself as a lawyer yeah and they the eulogy of clay is also very very interesting and again I think a very clear subtext there is slavery there's a battle going on over who gets to claim the legacy of clay the Democrats are trying to lay claim to it because they believe in compromise and Lincoln tries to turn the legacy of clay away in a way away from compromise and towards the anti-slavery strand of clays thought that's just before the Civil War that's well that's 52 or 52 yeah that's 52 so it's actually before Peoria's before the kansas-nebraska he doesn't clay which I agree is not I mean in a way if you just read the history you know clay is this great senator who's always you know fighting compromises and then it is Lucas account of him as he loved America was not primarily because he was America because he loved Liberty something like that is very strong right Liberty the Liberty component which is also an anti-slavery component oh that's interesting yeah so the most famous speech I suppose in American history and and around the world I know speech as standing around the world it's certainly in the top top five and the Gettysburg Address delivered at Gettysburg what November 19th is that we write 1863 yes and so very short that's the most I can think about it right intentionally so so what is looking at end by this and let's just go through it it's only three paragraphs so we can actually look at the text I yes intentionally so in in a couple of ways partly he's not the main speaker right edward everett is the main speaker and he gives a very long address to our address Lincoln is just asked to give some appropriate closing remarks so there's a limitation there that the the organizers have put upon him but it also seems to me I mean see it also in the second inaugural it's the shortest second inaugural it's the shortest inaugural ever so Lincoln is moving towards this kind of brevity and concision and it's also connected the brevity of it is connected with the claim that he makes about the status of words as compared to deeds now people often read that sentence as ironic right the world will little note nor long remember what we say here but it can never forget what they did here and they note the irony of the fact that this is a very famous speech and this must be students think well this must be false modesty on his part but I actually think it's quite sincere and a little risky in a certain way they've been there for about three hours at this point ever it's two-hour speech you had these long prayers at other other intervening things and Lincoln is speaking at the end of that so he says the world a little note nor long remember what we say here so not just what he's not using we as the Royal we he's saying what we've all been doing here for the last three hours nobody's going to remember that in fact no one does remember but whatever its speech and it's also the case that if the Union had not been victorious in the war I suspect even Lincoln's speech would not be much remembered so I think he is serious about the priority of deeds over speeches at this moment he is using words but he is using words to inspire deeds and even them even when it says about you know dedication and devotion even that is not enough right that dedication and devotion have to be turned into resolved back with Franklin's virtue of resolution it has to be turned into action in fact you could I and reformat this speech as a as a resolution you have a series of whereas clauses and then a be it resolved to that okay let's go through that's interesting no you're right I mean in the second inaugural which we'll get to it another time maybe it's a wonderful sentence about upon the progress of our arms everything depends upon the progress or I was and that's complete that said it's coming satisfactorily and yours about to end so yeah so we don't talk about that but it is just in passing buddy of course people he was very yeah not just resolution but actual victory is kind of important if you're fighting for self-government right it's not all the nice features don't don't solve it if the if the forces of slavery wins the Civil War yes so that that always has to be remembered I mean he is such a wordsmith and it's so wonderful just to study the words but words play a role in statesmanship but prudence and making the right decision at the right time or maybe more importantly the Battle of Gettysburg may be more important than the speech at Gettysburg right there makes possible maybe the speech at Gettysburg exam yes although at the same time I then want to turn and go through this let's go through word by word giving us the kind of definition of of America and a an account of the meaning of the war and signature so the speech it's written now it he's written quite seriously works out it really carefully so so yeah it's to be taken and he supervises I think it's printing to so easy yeah let Lincoln did not like to speak extemporaneously this is a text yeah he didn't write it on the back of the envelope right it's clear he'd been testing out and trying versions of some of these phrases already okay four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new name conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal okay what to be said about that well it's just the outfit four score and seven years ago so that's 1776 ah don't jump so quickly okay how did you know that I just did the math I don't know yeah okay they're actually three mathematical operations involved okay write four times 20 correct plus seven right gives you 87 right then you have to subtract right 87 from 1863 to get to 1776 so by the time anyone in the audience had done the calculation this speech would be over oh yeah you would miss the speech if you did the if you didn't automatically speech the whole is intended to be read and memorized from any decade it's not simply to be listened to right but but it does raise an interesting question I mean why didn't he just say in 1776 I never thought about that but you go first okay I mean students sometimes just say well this is more poetic biblical sounding yeah yeah is that it I mean what do you think um it is more poetic um but yeah that can't be the full the full answer right so what well the biblical residence is important I think that leon kass has made this point very nicely according to the bible the lifespan of a human being is the natural natural lifespan of human being is threescore in 10 so four score and seven it's more than that right so that means that there is no one in the audience here who could have been alive at the time of the revolution so he's really in a way going back to the Lyceum address that problem of living living history and so it raises the question what is the relationship between the lifespan of a nation and the lifespan of an of an individual especially since the nation may may perish our fathers so that fits with that I think yeah so he is tapping into that kind of reverence or piety although he also seems to be saying I mean many of the people in the audience are immigrants they were not it's not their biological fathers so and he doesn't say the founding fathers he he in a way says that seems to be saying that all Americans can lay claim to the founding fathers as as our fathers I think the hour is important there to the right at the beginning as opposed to should say the founding fathers Yeah right but also it does put it very much in the past I mean I think don't you think the whole thrust of that first paragraph is almost to extend it into the past even for more than he really was since it was you know only 87 years of code before that but four score and seven years ago our fathers what for that's a vague sense of like in you know in a min Holden times yeah yes I think it's important for the whole speech right it is yeah because this speech moves a linear fashion through the past the opening paragraph is about the past situated there and the second paragraph now we are engaged you move directly into the present moment and then the very end of the speech with the use of the future tense the nation shall have a new birth of freedom so it moves from past present to future what else the first paragraph um well maybe just raise a question why why does he use the language of generation and birth I doesn't use the language really of revolution yeah I mean some feta truth becomes a proposition but reading before this you say our fathers brought forth a new nation conceived in Liberty which is yeah yeah it's a beautiful phrase it's a little unclear what it what it means yeah well conceived can mean both I suppose right the conceptual you know thought it an idea right yes ideas are or conceived in the war yes so he seems to be playing on that imagery and actually different moments conception comes before birth so the nation is conceived in Liberty and then the nation is brought forth that's the birth moment right and what's birth is a new nation and then dedicated that looks forward it's dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal so you could argue that you actually have here conception birth and baptism the nation is given a certain guidance or or direction by the founding fathers placed on a certain pathway it's also a suggestion that you know liberty and and equality those are the sort of two founding ideas and you have to think about what the relationship between them is it's good oh wait we're nowhere near done with respect you're right ahead please well we I think should say something about the use of the word proposition yeah in the declaration it is said to be a self-evident truth that all men are created equal a self-evident truth is an axiomatic truth a truth that doesn't need to be proven and in fact can't be proven remember we know that Lincoln was a student of Euclid as an adult he put himself through the first six books of Euclid he was very well aware of the difference between an axiom and a proposition and there are other places in Lincoln's writing where he describes the principles of the Declaration as the axioms of free society as Jefferson's principles are the definitions and axioms of free society so here he instead describes it as a proposition and there are some who argue that this is highly significant he has really taken that truth and put it now in a different category and I would have to ask why why he does it I guess my reading of it is that I don't think that Lincoln has changed his mind about the self evidence of that truth but he knows that political truths are not quite like mathematical truths and political truths have to be held to be true right we hold these truths to be self-evident and it's perfectly clear that at least half the nation is no longer holding those truths to be self-evident so it's as if it has now shifted into the category of a propositional truth that requires a demonstration requires a proof in act in fact yeah yeah again you see the emphasis on on action right this this this poses a dilemma for us in this generation right no that's very true I've always thought that the the normal cells weak emphasis which is our standard on these truths are self-evident these truths to be self-evident is misses the importance that we hold as it's extremely important that it begins that way yeah very uncharacteristically in the first couple of paragraphs the declaration which are mostly the third person you know a people should you know will separate itself and then it's suddenly that we hold and that's really suggest that the truth is the truth of course is simply it our truth but it but it is also has to be our truth which makes it slightly less and more problematic maybe a mere truth of us so these are truths but we are the ones who hold them to be self-evident right right right that's our yeah doctrine so to speak yeah okay okay so there's a tradition okay all right are you going to read it aloud okay now we are engaged in a great Civil War testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure er we are met on a great battlefield of that war we've come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that then that that nation might live it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this this is another one of the I think structural elements of the speech so it does unfold in a linear way past present and future but it it has other structural elements as well and this test is part of that structure so I think there are actually three tests so there is a the test of of that nation in other words that nation as I have just defined it that's interesting he doesn't say this nation or our nation he says that nation I think he does that because he means not whatever nation you're thinking about but that nation as I have just defined it those 30 words that explain what happened at the time of the founding so what's being tested is whether that nation can survive but also whether any nation so conceived and so dedicated he repeats both the liberty and the equality whether any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure so it's a test of popular government altogether if the American experiment fails it was sort of the most privileged instance of self-government if we can't make a go of it then we really might have to give up on unpopular government and then I think there is a third test as well but I'll hold off on that until we get to the to the third paragraph and the solution to these tests is given in the final sentence of the speech right if we resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation under God shall the new birth of freedom government of the people by the people shall not perish that will that is the solution to the to the test the noise was struck by the or any nation so conceived and so dedicated in Federalist one toys with that thought to but it's not it can't strictly be true or be provably true that's and it could just be having if one we're sitting in England I'm making this up I was in 1865 one could have said look they had this particular problem of this institution of slavery getting very deeply embedded very quickly and then they mismanaged it arguably lets us say in the 1830s 40s 50s so it fell apart and it didn't survive it life's full of failed experiments and that's a bit of gloom about it but but doesn't mean that we couldn't in a and happier circumstances show that self government sources Federalist one puts a cover by reflection choice or government conceived in Liberty and dedicated to equality couldn't survive it's interesting that Lincoln woman really wants to make the universal claim here or seem to make the universal laugh it's not necessary is what I'm saying that you know he may be yeah it's not obviously this is yeah I guess I would say that for him yes slavery is hugely important but there is in a way a deeper issue at work right and that is the subscription to to law and majority rule so won't there will always be something that comes along that would make it difficult to subscribe to the will of the majority so again we're sort of back with the the reverence for the law I think I just think and I think it's fair enough since slavery it always be something like a few health slave Rita to to be as an obstacle in the way of self-government succeeding sense more probably the passions and the passion to take advantage of others and so forth but I also think it's important rhetorically though for Lincoln as it was for the founding to to make this almost more universalistic in significance then probably strict logic would allow I would say because that also OS allows you to appeal to the pride of America or yeah think of universal significance not just you know hey keep that country that these guys started four score and seven years ago going yeah there's there's more at stake yeah the mort's think I'd say it's actually an inducement towards moderation and towards more I don't know more thoughtful governance in a funny way in moderation of the claim isn't it actually supports moderate yes yeah yeah I think live it away because that makes you say whoa I can't you know can't risk everything here uh-huh where it's worth the sacrifice of the Civil War you know yeah yeah okay so we met in the great battle I mean cousin out of his way I would say most obviously in this paragraph though of it though it's true the whole speech never to mention where we Eddie pop there's no proper narrow in the speech for the possible exception of God God and liberty which is capitalized and in a way personified yeah so Liberty to beginning guards but know nothing about the actual battle nothing about here beautiful Pennsylvania on this fall day here in Pennsylvania none of the normal stuff you would see and yes to the battlefield it's incredibly abstract so it's it's not the United States of America it's just a new nation right it's not not America it's it's this continent there is no mention of the Union right there is no mention of the enemy the enemy our presence only by implication this is a National Cemetery it's a cemetery for the Union dead and so he says we've come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live in other words there are others who gave their lives that the nation might perish so they they are thereby by implication I do think that the very stripped-down and abstract care of the character of the speech is part of what accounts for its lasting character and its ability to speak to people in many different nations and in many different eras in other words every generation every citizen of a popular government can read this and somehow identify with this species by saying there there are always tasks for the net for the for the present generation and I think they're to take it and future generations of Americans many of whom were going to be immigrants or children regrets as Lincoln himself knew having spoken to that issue quite a lot making yeah 50s can it's easier for them to memorize the speech and make this the speech about America then if it's going on about these particular you know that was then you just you know the descendants of the Civil War soldiers get some special pride of place and Lincoln seems very much want not to want that to be the case as it were you know no Daughters of the American Revolution or what was they did set up that organization after the Civil War oh yeah whatever was the Grand Army or you know which was sort of veterans organization to lobby for a benefit specific or veterans but he's this cuts very much against all that I think yeah you don't have to bend physically in Gettysburg you don't have to write you just have to subscribe to this understanding of that nation right what do you think made it it made it pop makes it possible for people you know to memorize in public schools in New York in the 18th 1930s when very few of those people's parents were our grandparents were around 1863 you know also the fact that it contains only a hundred and thirty distinct words so there are 272 words in the speech but only a hundred and thirty distinct words so many words are repeated that's another kind of structural element of the speech is the repetition of certain words especially the word here here here here here here and repetition of other words like dedicate and consecrate a nation makes it easier to memorize one other things though yeah both the brevity and the repetition yeah although there there are some unusual things with the syntax that can make it difficult to memorize accurately so the placement of the hears is sometimes a little bit unusual and the placement of words like rather is is a little bit unusual so Lincoln was a very good grammarian it was a terrible speller but he was a very good grammarian right yeah he's bad bad speller because that's just conventional but grammar is logical and so he's very interested in grammar and there are maybe we can just do that the funny grammar thing that does in the second paragraph here so if you look at the subjects other sentences right now we are engaged we are met we have come to dedicate so it's we we we and then you have the concluding sentence it it it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this this is something called a dummy it or an anticipatory it so the subject that it stands in for is that we should do this that we should do this is altogether fitting and proper and again it's up so do this doesn't it it doesn't use words like cemetary for instance it's just filled and resting place so the effect of this grammatical structure is actually to throw the weight of the sentence on the word that comes after the verb the word that comes after the verb is all together it is all together yeah so it actually the the way the emphasis works is we we we all together yeah so it's a it's a it's a beat that has an effect on you right even though he's using all together not to mean all of us together right but it I think it it creates that sense that we are all in this together we we we all together I'm instructed that lessons is I mean it's not obvious why it's there that is the speech would read fine without the last sentence in fact it would read a little better in a funny way because it goes from we've come to dedicate a portion of this field and then the third paragraph accountants begins Buttered a larger sense we cannot dedicate so it's an I'd say it's an obtrusive you know it's an interjection in a way yes yeah I think he has to do that because he wants to say well he has to do it because the third paragraph actually reverses direction right the but means I'm taking back what I just said right and so he has and so he has to say it is fitting and proper that we should do this right it is right to be here acknowledging our debt to the to the dead soldiers to their sacrifice their blood sacrifice so I think he feels he has to give them that but he's going to pivot in the next paragraph that's not I think usually noticed okay so let's go to yeah I have argued in print that this is the most significant use of the word but in the English language so you know elementary school teachers tell you not to start a sentence with but not certainly not to start a paragraph with binary but Lincoln does it so why does he do it and I think this points to the – the real problem that he's addressing so there's the problem of national survival there's the problem of the survival of popular government but there is the problem that he is facing as president and that's the problem of northern morale the problem of grief so get Gettysburg you have the the the the Union dead are 3,500 there are more Confederate dead and there are 50,000 casualties it's the highest casualty rate of the war one-third of the fighting men on the field were casualties in that battle dead wounded missing and this is not just you know one week but week after week after week the drumbeat of of these horrific battles right after the victory at Gettysburg the New York draft riots break out and there are 120 dead in the New York draft riots and the Gettysburg veterans of Gettysburg have to be sent north they're taken off the quest for Lee and sent north to quell the disturbances in New York City there were those who said that the the draft riots turned the the victory at Gettysburg into a Confederate victory so this is a war speech that has to rally rally the nation so it's rather like what's in a certain way what Pericles does in the funeral oration there is this problem of grief and so he as gently as he can has to tell the mourners that they cannot do what they came to do oh they can't do what they came to do if they remain their tarrying among the graves lamentation is not what is called for so in a larger sense we cannot dedicate we cannot consecrate we cannot hallow this ground they didn't the brave men they have consecrated it then the statement that we've already discussed about the about the world right uh and then he goes back to that same grammatical format of formulation it is right that it that that deferred it it is for us the living rather the two Rather's in the final two sentences pick up the but still in that sort of adversative mode and the effect of the of the deferred it is to put the emphasis on what comes after the verb in other words for us that's where the emphasis is it is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced it is rather for us to be here dedicated so he really is using his sophisticated knowledge of grammar to attempt to move to move the audience yeah that's good I mean the but well let's just finish that up and then over to come back for a minute to the in a larger sense because I can't just be about the morale of the north though in November of 1863 I guess the speech also has that so so much longer horizon so to speak so I mean yeah isn't he also sort of qualifying what as you said earlier what's what's come before it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this but in a larger sense that's a very he doesn't have to say that right yeah I mean it maybe he just he doesn't want to be quite so bald-faced and saying you can't do what you came here to do that's a bit of a slap in the face to them but you're right that this I think it does point forward to the current generation which means also to every current generation that reads this speech so that's part of the larger sense I mean you can see so all the way back in the Lyceum address no generation wants to think of itself as the epoch owns the the the the task of self-government must be ongoing right and almost more even of a task now or as much certainly maybe more though that's why eventually the Lyceum address it seems to me argues that the task of perpetuation is a higher task a more difficult task than the task of founding so in a funny way speaking of djs as we did earlier and this in ways the opposite of the greatest generation rhetoric which i've always sort of thought was both wonderful and deserved tribute but in a certain way problematic because it's sort of well they work with the greatest and we're kind of you know tooling along and of course we'll never do it yeah like d-day which we probably watch but it certainly won't but but you know we're sort of doing our best also to keep the peace and you know order together and so forth but it's something that's not quite right somehow for the point of view of democratic leadership yeah because there was a kind of necessity that they were facing right but you don't agree to estatic as I say I mean like it doesn't say he could have said these are the greatest you know we will never live up to their standards that's a standard kind of thing to say at a cemetery frankly and it's sometimes true true and maybe true in this case incidentally I mean but um you know but it is very striking how forward-looking he gets if I can use that term in those last two sentences in particular yeah at a dedication of a cemetery for a battlefield you know which is unusual I'd say yes and not just in some ritualistic way of you know and therefore we have to do our best to keep you know the your normal things you might say someone would say but really yeah as you say it is for us the living rather to be dedicated here yes also the living is really kind of startling what do you think about it for a minute – right yeah they're dead and gone the brave men living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it but it's for us the living rather to be dedicated to the unfinished work which they fought here yeah so if we get to that last sentence maybe the longest one longer by great deal than any of the other sentences here and quite complicated in fact there's a wonderful website that you can go to where you can see this sketched out you know what do you call that when you do the sentence diagramming yes a sense diagram of the of this this last sentence of the Gettysburg Address it's it's phenomenal so it is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause so he's shifting to the cause the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion so the first thing that dedication will do will be to increase devotion to the cause but then you get the the three resolves that we here highly resolve so dedication and devotion have to turn into resolve resolve three things that these dead shall not have died in vain so that does look back to them right we don't want their their sacrifice to be wasted second that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom I have to talk about what that means and how it relates to the conceived in Liberty and that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth so two of these are shalt nots shall not have died in vain and so that government shall not perish free government shall not perish from the earth and one of them is a show that the nation shall have a new birth of freedom which is only the most powerful and most emphatic of the three I would say yeah yeah so that's this nation yeah now he shifted from that nation to this nation right he inserted on God I guess in the did that does seem to be late although in the final text that he supervised it was there and it's there in all of the journalistic accounts transcriptions that were taken at the time so she'll have a new burst of the new birth of freedom that's the most famous phrase in the speech I suppose yeah yeah so we try to tie this back to the first paragraph one thing we might notice this other structural element that is now clear you began with language of birth the whole middle section is about death resting place burial grounds and then new birth of freedom so there's a linear movement but there's also a cyclical movement birth death rebirth and possibly rebirth at a higher level so kind of perhaps Christian Christian imagery of being born again so in the first paragraph what was born was the nation it was a new nation but what's born now is actually freedom that's good it's a new birth of freedom often we use liberty and freedom as synonyms I think it's possible that Lincoln is not simply using them as synonyms there's a reason he shifts from Liberty to freedom so if it's now freedom that is actually born how is that what does that mean one thing that it means that the Emancipation Proclamation has already been in effect for almost a year and there are already great numbers of freedmen who are fighting for the Union wearing wearing the Union blue and it's clear that if the Union wins slavery will be at an end completely at an end so partly the new birth of freedom is an extension of freedom 4 million new freedmen but I so I think that's part of its meaning but I I think it also means that if the nation succeeds in vindicating the majority principle and really showing that once you have agreed to be bound by ballots you must continue to be bound by ballots there's no recourse back to bullets that that itself will be a new birth of freedom so that you you could say that what the new birth of freedom does is to finally bring together what what was a little bit separated in the first paragraph or a little bit separated at the time of the founding conceived in Liberty dedicated to equality those two things were not coterminous or completely at one with each other at the time of the founding the new birth of freedom would now be would now bring together liberty and equality we would really be living out the principles of the Declaration in their intertwine admitted ear acquires then you understand what what consent means and you have put consent on its proper foundation of the recognition of equality you know it's good we should bring this to a close here and we resume Lincoln in another conversation but thoughts on this but then certainly the second or or girl and other things but why do you think it ends the I've always thought that the the ends beautifully I mean there's a kind of matter of cadence it's a beautiful ending but it's a little bit of a letdown don't you think it's like Heights of the new birth of you govern people about the people for the people shall perish from the earth well that's great but shall not perish as a fairly yeah that's not sort of you know I shall try triumph Allegiant yeah but this is part of Lincoln's conservatism yeah he always manages to be utterly conservative and utterly liberal and to combine those in the proper balance so there's a kind of balance here of the shalt nots and the shells yeah and it's it's not nothing for government of by and for the people to not perish right that itself is is is highly as a high accomplishment uh we should maybe just say something about under God yeah please what what we're to make of that and whether that plays a role in the new birth of freedom or not what would it mean for the nation to be under God the reference to the divine and the first paragraph comes from the declaration all men are created equal there's a creator god but that doesn't mean necessarily a providential God or a God that's active in in human history whereas if the nation is now under God under the superintendence of God and maybe God is now in forming our sense of the limits of of human of human freedom that might enter into what a new birth of freedom would be a kind of freedom that is not licensed to do anything licensed to hold slaves for instance that's good well that's actually the appropriate thing to and this conversation now because under God points forward two points forward in that respect to the second inaugural which in so many ways is so different I always think from the from Gettysburg but obviously does have a real reflection on the whole question of yes politics under dad would well do the theological political question next time next time I really look forward to it and Diana thanks so much for joining me today and thank you for joining us on conversations

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