Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Lincoln~Douglas Debates of 1858

I have of late been reading a biography of Disraeli, but I'm going to set that aside while I take up a book about the Lincoln~Douglas Debates. These debates, held in Illinois on the eve of the Civil War, I think, have many lessons for us today.

"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free."

Can our government endure, half pro-choice and half pro-life,....half gay marriage, and half traditional marriage,...half at war, and half at peace?

Lincoln teaches us in the 21st century from the 19th that tradition is good, but making the moral and right stand is even better. And he did it in well thought out debates with an honourable opponent, in words that mean as much in Iraq or Iran or America in 2006 as they did in Illinois in 1858. He provides the grounds for freedom of the individual, that no man may own another (speaks to me today about a fetus) or be master over another (writing this down Islam?). Douglas may contend that a state may vote whether to have slavery, but for Lincoln, if ten thousand men vote aye, and it is wrong, it is still wrong.

So, I'm off to read! It's got to be 500 pages, so I got my work cut out for me.


At 12:49 AM, Blogger MonicaR said...

Nice picture CH! ;-)

At 3:11 AM, Anonymous Frank O'Dwyer said...

no man may own another (speaks to me today about a fetus)

"Woman? What woman?"

I bet American women wish they really had the power of invisibility that the 'pro-life' so often grant them. Sigh.

At 11:41 AM, Blogger Alan_McDonald said...


I agree with Monica (WHAT?), it's a nice picture. Ya done good!

Now, your question:
Can our government endure, half pro-choice and half pro-life,....half gay marriage, and half traditional marriage,...half at war, and half at peace?
is rhetorical. If it weren't, the answer would be, Yes.

My earlier comments on other posts have stated my position that these either/or conundrums are a false dichotomy used for partisan political purposes to win elections then be ignored. America has always had opposing issues and it has always endured. The "government" never endures, but changes at the Federal level every two years.

I hope you are not seriously comparing our current differences to the state of the union in 1861, are you? The last person I recall who said something like that was Pat Buchanan at the 1992 Republican Convention, and Al Franken called him on it. (Bet you didn't think I could include those two guys in one sentence, didja!)

At 12:25 PM, Blogger Chas said...

Thanks Alan, I like that picture.
The question is somewhat rhetorical in that the US gov. isn't going anywhere. Lincoln's next sentence was "it will either be all one or the other."

I'm not comparing today with 1858 in that I think there will be civil war over the issue, although the side are definately in a cold war.

What really interests me is how 2 politicians debated diametrically opposed issues in a friendly and cultured manner. And did so to fill 500 pages in a book. That's a far cry from the 60 second sound bites spoon fed to us today. There must be lessons for us today.

And Alan, you mentioned Al Franken. You must now report to your nearest Republican pro-consul! :)

At 12:34 PM, Blogger Alan_McDonald said...


Have you noticed that many good people avoid politics because there is so much character assassination and so little true debate? I actually know the local Republican pro-consul, and he's quite a decent fellow. Before redistricting, our Democrat pro-consul was also decent. I don't think either one of them took money from Abramoff.

At 12:50 PM, Blogger Chas said...

Alan, I think our Republic is much worse off for it. However, American politics has always been rough and tumble. The difference is today, in our PC culture, personal foibles seem to mean more than what kind of leader you'd be. What if Jefferson had been axed for fathering a child with his slave Sally. That was used against him in his presidential run. Today that's deadly. Why?

At 1:06 PM, Blogger Alan_McDonald said...

Lots of reasons. The one that comes to mind is the packaging of candidates. It's analagous to what happened to music after MTV. Anyone who doesn't look good is gone no matter how well they can sing. Another is the laziness and short attention span, that feeds into pigeonholing your opponent as well as packaging yourself.

While you might not believe it, some people think the Republicans and Democrats are too much alike. Republicrats they call them. Those same people don't have time (hah) to sort out differences in economic platforms, so they go with the sound bite about the paramour (preferably with photos and steamy audio tapes).

At 5:01 PM, Blogger MonicaR said...

It has to do with the attention span of the typical American. It turns into this emotional thing rather than a rational debate. A 10 second smear job usually does the trick.

It takes a lot of time and effort to go digging for facts, for different viewpoints. We all know that, right? I mean - here we are! Where are most Americans? Stuck in a traffic jam or scrambling to get the dinner on or whatever.


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