OUR FOREFATHERS’ COVENANTS
June 12, 2020
Today we will talk briefly about Abraham Lincoln; and then we will -- over the next few discussions -- delve into the process that has unfolded over the past 50 years or so in which our covenantal rights as Americans have been stolen, and the emerging reversal of that process which has taken place in the past few years.
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States (1861 - 1865), has been both praised and vilified: either as one of the greatest presidents this nation has ever had, or as one of the worst -- all subject, of course, to the biases of those praising or criticizing.
Constitutional purists consider Lincoln despicable because he suspended the writ of habeas corpus (a nice legal term for the body of law -- the Constitution, in this case). The writ provided the freedom for an accused individual to be brought before a court of law, examined under the law, and either charged for committing some violation of law, or released because no proof of a violation had been committed.
Beyond suspending the writ of habeas corpus, Lincoln also ordered the arrest of some 18,000 opponents including public officials and newspaper publishers, and overstepped the bounds of executive authority and power as established in the Constitution -- particularly in the area of States' Rights.
That said, Abraham Lincoln saw this nation's future, and our unity as "one nation under God" as his overriding responsibility. He had a vision for this nation's potential as a force for righteousness in the world, and saw the abomination of slavery as a sin against God, and a blight that would bring a curse upon America, quickly bringing our nation's existence to an end.
During the American Civil War, on November 19, 1863, four and a half months after the Battle of Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln gave what is easily the most famous and most remembered speech of his lifetime: the Gettysburg Address.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have 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. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. 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 to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
In the days that followed his delivery of the Gettysburg Address, in 1863, with the nation embroiled in war and dark shadows cast on the prospect of peace, President Lincoln revived a tradition of thankfulness at a time when there seem little to be grateful for.
As Tony Perkins (of Family Research Council) put it, "As he walked among the shallow graves at Gettysburg, mourning the thousands who fell, President Lincoln asked his countrymen to lay down their arms and pray. After delivering his famous battlefield address, Lincoln reminded the people that although they were divided by many things, they were still united by the American ideal. There, in Gettysburg, Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving proclamation, setting aside one November day for people of the North and South to join together, and with one voice offer their praise and gratitude to God. The country, though shattered by war and broken in spirit, would observe its first Thanksgiving since the great Revolution.
Thus, Abraham Lincoln penned in part,
"In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity... order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict...
"Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship... notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
"No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God... It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people...
“I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also... fervently implore the imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose."
Lincoln saw his responsibility before God as President of this nation as superseding the Constitution (if only on a very temporary basis); and in the pursuit of fulfilling that responsibility, he first declared an end to slavery within the Confederate states through the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. In 1865, he secured passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing the permanent abolition of slavery.
He took personal interest, involvement and attention to the Reconstruction, seeking to quickly reunite Americans under a liberal and generous policy of reconciliation. Lincoln was a leader among leaders, and he was able to defuse many of the heated emotional disagreements within his Republican Party by bringing virtually every faction of the party into his cabinet. His leadership and the personal quality of his integrity and character came into play as he handled the border slave states in 1861.
Despite his overstepping of Constitutional powers during the Civil War, he was re-elected to the Presidency by a popular vote margin of 55% to 45%, and and Electoral College vote margin of 91% to 9%. Politicos of the day widely assumed that because of the huge loss of life during the Civil War, Lincoln would easily lose the vote of soldiers. In fact, just over 70% of all those soldiers who voted cast their votes for Abraham Lincoln.
History has shown in retrospect that Lincoln made the right decisions. His reverence for the Lord and his vision for what America could and would be prompted him to make the following speech on July 4th, 1864.
"These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” . . . They established these great self-evident truths that . . . their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew that battle which their fathers began, so that truth and justice and mercy and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land. . . . Now, my countrymen, if you have been taught doctrines conflicting with the great landmarks of the Declaration of Independence . . . let me entreat you to come back. . . . Come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence."
It was fitting, therefore, that President Abraham Lincoln invited Rev. Henry Highland Garnet, a black Presbyterian pastor, to speak in the church services (which were regularly held) in Congress on February 12, 1865 (just barely two months before he was assassinated at Ford's Theater). An estimated 2,000 people attended that church service in the House of Representatives.
Historians have labeled George Washington as "the Father of our Country." Abraham Lincoln's first name (after Abraham of old) meant "Father of Many Nations," but because of his role in preserving our national unity, historians have labeled him instead "the Redeemer President."
And indeed did Abraham Lincoln do just that: redeem this nation from destruction by preventing those eleven southern states to secede and form a separate, slave-ridden country, dooming forever our status as "One Nation Under God."
That said, let's talk about someone whose name is synonymous with education and learning, and someone whose name is likely more used today than even that of George Washington. We're talking, of course, about Daniel Webster, whose name is on the overwhelming majority of the dictionaries used in schools and institutions of higher learning.
Born January 18, 1782 in Salisbury, New Hampshire, Daniel Webster was a skinny lad who had a personal terror of public speaking. Funny thing. For a fellow who had such a fear of facing the public, he sure overcame it!
The son of rather poor parents, Ebenezer and Abigail Webster, Daniel began to show promise of exceptional brilliance even at an early age. In recognition of his service in the French and Indian War, Daniel's father was granted a small parcel of land in New Hampshire which he industriously and effectively farmed. It provided enough of an income to the family such that Ebenezer and Abigail decided to sacrifice any extras for several years so that Daniel could be privately tutored -- even before he reached the normal age to begin his public education.
Daniel Webster had a unique talent. He was born with, and even improved upon, a photographic memory. He had the ability to see something just once and retain it to the finest detail in memory.
While still young, his parents sent him off to Philips Exeter Academy for nine months. The academic brilliance he demonstrated earned him the opportunity to attend Dartmouth College where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa just after his 19th birthday in 1801. Prompted by classmates and instructors, he began using his memory skills while still at Dartmouth to begin writing speeches for others.
Invited to join the United Fraternity Literary Society, he overcame his fear of public speaking sufficiently that he began to engage in public debate. Webster's obvious genius for memorization was an enormous help in recalling precise detail, and he put it to good use in public speeches.
So skilled did he become at public speaking that he was invited to deliver Hanover's Independence Day oration on July 4th of 1801. It was only natural, therefore, that he would be invited to apprentice as a lawyer. In 1805, Daniel Webster opened his first law office in Boscawen, New Hampshire, and two years later turned it over to his father (who prospered in some measure as a result of his son's prominence) when he opened another office in Portsmouth.
The following year, at age 26, he married Grace Fletcher. They had one son together, Charles Webster. Grace died in the 20th year of their marriage.
With people like John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton publishing their Federalist Papers and inspiring many of those fellow-countrymen to become part of the newly-formed Federalist Society, it didn't take long for Webster to become a member. It didn't hurt, of course, that Daniel's father, Ebenezer, had become a Federalist.
It took no time whatever for his peers in the Federalist Society to realize they had a gem on their hands in Webster. His ability to retain information and knowledge, coupled with his developed (and developing) speaking skills made him the ideal articulate spokesman for their political views. At the same time, his skills were put to work as he took on some rather high profile cases as an attorney, prosecuting cases against the likes of Jeremiah Mason.
In 1812, Daniel Webster was elected as New Hampshire's representative to the U.S. House of Representatives, largely because of his opposition to the War of 1812 which had crippled New England's shipping and international trade. He served two terms in the U.S. House, leaving Congress in 1816.
After leaving Congress, he moved to Boston where he used his legal acumen to play a huge part in the defense of the Constitution. At the same time, his past participation in Congress caused the beginning of a transition and shift in his political views. He was called upon to argue some of the nation's most high-profile cases before the Supreme Court (and in particular, DARTMOUTH COLLEGE v. WOODWARD, and GIBBONS v. OGDEN, along with MCCULLOCH v. MARYLAND). His oratory before the Supreme Court firmly established him as the nation's leading Constitutional lawyer.
In 1823, now at age 35, Daniel Webster was returned to Congress -- this time as a Representative for the State of Massachusetts. Four years later, he was elected as a U.S. Senator. The Federalist Party now dead and an icon of history, Webster chose to join what was then called the National Republican Party (the Whigs, for short). His political views had undergone considerable change as he recognized the impracticality of some of his previous Federalist positions.
This Coffee Break series is running a bit long, and there is still more to go. Next week, we will continue with Daniel Webster.
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Blessings on you!
Regner A. Capener
RIVER WORSHIP CENTER
Temple, Texas 76502
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