Abraham Lincoln was a smart guy. The problem smart guys have is that they say a lot of memorable things, but for whatever reason people latch on to their most famous lines while allowing the rest to fall by the wayside. With Lincoln, there’s The Gettysburg Address, his “House Divided” speech, The Emancipation Proclamation, and then his Inaugural addresses to pull from. While they are all important, I think his Lecture on Liberty at the Sanitary Fair in Baltimore should be added to the list of “do not forget” speeches.

Lincoln understood in 1864 what so many liberty-loving Americans do not: the definition of the word ‘liberty’ for many Americans is incompatible with the country’s founding.

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name — liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names — liberty and tyranny.

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act, as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails today among us human creatures … all professing to love liberty.” — Abraham Lincoln, April 18, 1864. Lecture on Liberty at the Sanitary Fair in Baltimore.

Are you the shepherd or the wolf? There are hundreds of wolves populating the halls of Congress, and all of them are trying to convince you they are a shepherd.

Editor’s note for regular readers: This passage will also play a role in the book I am writing.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

15 comments

  1. I have to confess I don’t know much about Lincoln beyond the civil war and his assassination. I haven’t seen the recent biopic. Based on this he seems like he has a very level head which a lot of politicians could certainly learn from.

    Just out of interest, is the film worth watching?

    And when it comes to your book, I will definitely be interested in reading it.

    1. Truthfully, I didn’t get a chance to see ‘Lincoln’ in theaters. I think the run time was around three hours. When it came out I was doing a lot of traveling on weekends…so three hours was just too much to eat up in addition to the eight hours I was on the road.

      When the book comes out, perhaps I’ll try and find a way to get advance copies to a few of my readers…

    1. Thanks, Truthwillwin. 🙂

      I lucked out. With my wife’s extensive knowledge of human biology, she’s been pulling double-duty and helping me out with the book. One of my main characters, Luke, is a doctor. No reference to Star Wars — he’s a doctor. Men of faith can figure out why…

  2. Lincoln is an interesting case study. He’s praised for keeping the nation together in time of its greatest threat; however, he utilized means to do so which today would make us wince. He unilaterally suspended habeas corpus (a power only Congress has), and jailed and exiled political opponents. He also had little issue with his generals waging total war against the South.

    There are certainly arguments to be made for and against these actions; it’s just interesting to make note of them and wonder how today’s two major parties would react in a similar situation. For instance, libs were aghast at what GW Bush did in the War on Terror; however, they now praise (or at least keep silent about) Barack Obama doing precisely the same — and worse. The reverse is true with many conservatives (although libertarians mostly chided Bush and continue to do so with Obama).

    1. Thanks a lot, Hube. You gave a reply that I really want to respond to…right before I have to leave for work! 🙂 I’ll have to circle back to this one. You make some very interesting points.

    2. I understand the reference, Doug… just like the Apostle Luke the Evangelist, of the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles fame.

      It continues to amaze me how that aspect of Lincoln is conveniently ignored. Doesn’t surprise me though. It’s the kind of things (suspension of habeas corpus, jailing and exiling his political opponents, etc.) that would make people scream for his impeachment, were he President today. Liberals screamed at Bush for his actions during the War on Terror, and now they praise Obama for continuing it… and doing much worse, as we’ve found through the PRISM scandal. I remember liberals saying, “Oh, Bush is gonna round us up off the street and jail us for simply voicing our opinions,” which of course never happened. But flash forward to today, and Obama jailed Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, whose video was falsely blamed for the Benghazi attacks, and Dinesh D’Souza, maker of “2016: Obama’s America” winds up being arrested as well. Not to mention, Obama uses the IRS as a weapon against opponents…. and some of his cronies like Chuck Schumer want them to keep at it.

    3. When I worked at Heritage someone from Louisiana once came in and saw the bust of Lincoln that is right inside the doorway and they lost it. They went sort of ballistic, actually. The guy went off on, essentially, the “war crimes” in the South that Lincoln allowed to happen (as if war crimes never happen in war). It was very interesting to witness, as I had never seen someone get visibly upset over Abraham Lincoln before.

      My issue with Obama isn’t the fact that he uses drones, it is that he campaigned as the anti-Bush. Heck, he was given a Nobel Peace Prize for … not being Bush. How’s that working out, world? It’s the hypocrisy of Obama that gets me, whether it’s with U.S. military around the globe, NSA spying or any number of other issues where he realized that being in the driver’s seat is a lot different than being a community organizer in Chicago.

      I would even be okay with an NSA spying program if it was done correctly, but that can’t really happen because instead of having a serious national conversation on our security needs (and how we can protect people while maximizing individual liberty) we’re given “$10.10” minimum wage spiels. Ummm, okay. Like Bush or hate Bush, the guy stood up for what he believed in and he took it on the chin. Obama? He’s all over the map and the media works overtime hide how utterly incoherent he is, particularly when it comes to foreign policy. The guy mocked Romney for his stance on Russia (i.e., “The 80s want their foreign policy back.”) and now … we can see how right Mr. Obama was by looking at Syria, the Ukraine, etc. Unbelievable.

    4. The hypocrisy gets to me, too. He campaigned as the anti-Bush, and yet he expands the policies he condemned. Of course, unlike many people my age, I never believed a word the guy said, and voted against him both times. And I’d vote against him again, too. I remember what really raised my eyebrows was back in 2008 when he claimed that he’d “fundamentally transform” America. I thought, why would you want to transform something you love? I thought that sounded sinister from the beginning, but of course liberals I knew criticized me as being “racist” and one even told me, “you just don’t want a black man in the White House,” which of course isn’t true. I base my criticisms of Obama on his policies, not his race. But once again, I was right about the transformation being bad.

      And we can’t seem to have a serious conversation on anything, because the progressives know how to distract people from what really maters. The Fluke hearings and the subsequent “War on Women” nonsense started happening to distract people from the sinking debt, soaring gas prices and the like. Benghazi was blamed on a video because to acknowledge Islamist terrorism’s involvement would contradict the Obama administration’s false “Al Qaeda on the run” narrative. The IRS scandal is considered “irrelevant” by liberals, who harp on and on about the New Jersey Bridge “scandal,” which to me is a total non-issue. Now the latest sideshow is the raise the minimum wage arguments, being promoted by people who don’t understand economics and don’t understand that minimum wage jobs are intended to be temporary.

    5. You may not be racist, but we know for a fact that you’re a sexist, Carl. 😉 I couldn’t resist. I’ll remember that one for awhile.

      In all seriousness though, you’re right: If you love something, I find it hard to believe that you would so easily call for its fundamental transformation.

    6. LOL. I wouldn’t be forgetting that comment for a while, either. 😉 That was so ridiculous, especially when you consider the argument was about Wonder Woman of all things.

      I have never understood why you’d want to radically change something you supposedly loved. That’s something I brought up back in 2008, but one progressive I knew told me that if I didn’t accept Hope-n-Change, “you will be crushed under the wheels of change, change that you cannot stop.” Same one also told me that conservatives such as myself were a “dying breed” and that I was a puppet of “Jewish masters who caused 9-11.” Yeesh! He just had to resort to calling my sister a derogatory sexual name (the c-word) and instantly he was blocked.

      But sure enough, Obama has enacted his fundamental transformations, and they haven’t been for the better. The Obamacare disasters, the executive orders, the IRS scandal, Benghazi, etc. I suspect that aforementioned progressive would be fine with that, since scandals, war and government expansion are considered a-OK when a Democrat is in office.

  3. Absolutely, – unless we start to think for ourselves, care ourselves and be responsible – not a single thing is gonna change. My ex husband was that way – passive, childish and demanding, now he’s sitting on imgur day and night upvoting jokes about jerking off. In case you don’t fight, you lose it. Excellent write-up.

    Editor’s note: Comments are welcome — links to websites selling supplements are not. The links were deleted. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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